Making Good Pork Perfect

By Jeanine Wallace, Ontario Pork - The pork value chain involves many processes, from the farm through to the slaughterhouse, restaurant and grocery trades.
calendar icon 30 May 2006
clock icon 4 minute read
Information provided courtesy Ontario Pork Ontario Pork Logo

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All of these processes interact, and can lead to a range of unexplained variability or inconsistent pork appearance, tenderness or juiciness. Consistency is important to consumers who want superior quality every time they eat pork.

Prof. Peter Purslow, Department of Food Science, is working on identifying aspects of the pork value chain that will enhance meat quality and ultimately lead to more repeated sales and happier, satisfied consumers.

"Variability in pork products is the greatest barrier to repeat consumer sales of premium pork products," he says.

Through his research, Purslow hopes to identify and reduce aspects of product variability to enhance the quality and the eating experience for consumers and everyone else in the value chain. Animal behaviour, management, genotype and nutrition are also factors contributing to product variability; in fact, Purslow notes that roughly 30 per cent of product variation is due to genetics.

Variability in the appearance and quality of pork products can affect producer profits, too. Consumers often base their purchasing decisions on meat colour, which is affected by tenderness and the amount of fluid found in the packaged product. Drip loss - that is, fluid loss from meat cuts and water evaporation from the hog carcass -- is caused by post slaughter changes. It decreases the meat tenderness and juiciness, which can lessen consumers' demand for pork. Drip loss reduces carcass weight so that packers have fewer products to sell, along with causing problems for processors when manufacturing pork products.

Currently 2.5 per cent drip loss is the target set by the National Pork Board in the U.S., but Purslow has found the average for some Ontario pork producers to be more than six per cent.

Preliminary findings of the research have shown that pig temperament, or animal behaviour can be directly linked to meat quality, and significantly increase drip loss. Pigs that appear to be bold in some behaviour tests had higher drip losses than pigs that are shy, which shows that pigs with different temperaments respond very differently to handling which affects meat quality. By addressing such variabilities as drip loss and product colour, Purslow hopes to help optimize pork quality standards.

Colleagues working with Purslow on this research include Profs. Kees de Lange, Andy Robinson, Jim Squires, Tina Widowski and Ira Mandell. Ontario Pork and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council assisted with funding.

For more information, contact Jean Howden, Ontario Pork research coordinator, at 1-877-668-7675 or [email protected].

Source: Ontario Pork, May 2006

Jeanine Wallace was a former writer with SPARK, the University of Guelph's student writing program.

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