Opportunities for Improving the Quality of Pork

Each stage of the production chain from farm to cooking times is covered in turn in No. 1 of the Target Pork Quality series from BPEX.
calendar icon 1 May 2012
clock icon 4 minute read


  • Select genotypes to deliver market requirements. Restricting the number of genotypes improves consistency. Select for meat quality traits as tools become available.
  • Ad-lib feeding from 30kg to slaughter.
  • Following diet specification:
    • Fishmeal should be excluded from finishing rations
    • Fatty acids - maximum 1.6 per cent by weight of linoleic acid (C18:2) in finishing ration
    • Maximum 2.0 per cent by weight of polyunsaturated fatty acids in finishing ration
    • Vitamin E - minimum 100IU/kg
    • Include specific components to reduce the risk of boar taint (skatole) where appropriate
  • Incorporate additional n-3 fatty acids within the above constraints for a healthier human diet where appropriate.
  • Maintain pig cleanliness to reduce risk of boar taint through building layout and ventilation.
  • Minimise age at slaughter (at the target carcass weight) through optimising growth rate.

Transport to Abattoir

  • Aim for an eight- to 12–hour interval between last feed and slaughter (avoid exceeding 18 hours).
  • Ensure haulier knows precise number to be transported before the vehicle is dispatched to the farm.
  • Avoid ramps at loading.
  • Aim to maintain pigs in stable social groups.
  • Minimise transit time to the abattoir.
  • Avoid use of goads.
  • Consider use of toys during transport.

Abattoir Lairage

  • Avoid ramps at unloading.
  • Unload pigs promptly.
  • Aim to maintain pigs in their social groups in lairage and up to stunning.
  • Use water sprinklers in lairage in hot weather.
  • Provide race to stunner which encourages pigs to move forward without goading.
  • Consider use of toys during lairage.


  • For loin quality apply one of the following combinations:
    • Apply an effective high voltage electrical stimulation (HVES) system at 20 minutes after stunning, if carcases can be chilled rapidly, with a minimum four days maturation.
    • Extend maturation time (see below).
  • For leg quality aitch bone hang sides within an hour of stunning. Hold in this way for at least 12 hours and mature the meat for four days1.

1 Note that it has been shown that hip suspension is effective in improving leg quality following the use of HVES as well as in unstimulated carcasses.


  • Prevent any muscle temperature falling below 10°C for the first three hours after stunning unless HVES has been applied.
  • Overloading chillers should be avoided.
  • Maintain storage temperature through the chain from carcases to prepared cuts at 0°C to +4°C (but ensure temperature is kept below 3°C for maturation in vacuum packs).

Maturation Time

For optimum tenderness aim for the following intervals from slaughter to retail.

Legs 4 days
Loins bone-in 7 days
Loins bone-out 12 days
Loins from HVES treated carcases 4 days

Carcass/Cut Selection

  • Exclude carcasses/cuts with bruises, blemishes and extraneous matter (eg bone dust/visceral contents).
  • Ensure a minimum P2 fat depth of 8mm. There is no upper limit but it is expected that any excess fat will be trimmed before retail sale.
  • Ensure good visual appeal, eg avoid meat which is PSE, DFD or has blood splash.

Cooking Time

Aim for 70 to 80°C in the centre of grilled and roasted cuts.

Higher temperatures in this range gives more flavoursome pork, but tends to make it drier and less tender.

Benefits of Using these Guidelines

  • Improved tenderness
  • Less drip
  • Better colour
  • Greater juiciness
  • Better flavour
  • Opportunities for improving nutritional quality

May 2012

Sponsored Article

© 2000 - 2023 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.