Does Meat Quality Really Matter?

The conversation about meat quality in pork is not necessarily a new topic, however the momentum of the discussion and action by packers is.
calendar icon 31 May 2017
clock icon 4 minute read

by Derek Petry, Ph.D. [email protected]

Most producers seem to have little interest in meat quality because there is no financial incentive to have better quality so the focus is only on efficiency of raising the animals (i.e. feed conversion, growth rate, and sow productivity). The trend of pork demand has been flat for well over a decade in the US, whereas other countries (i.e. China) or globally the demand has increased significantly (Figure 1). So if this is true and the US wants to be in the export market where quality is demanded (Gale and Huang, 2007), then selecting for meat quality does matter.

Defining meat quality can be difficult as specific targets are not set, but rather ranges are used to help classify “better” quality. When thinking about industry averages intramuscular fat is around 2.0-2.2%, pH is 5.6-5.8, and color (subjective) is 3. Many things can impact pH and color of meat including: diet, handling, size of animal, how the animal is processed, and health (Ngapo and Gariepy, 2008). If any of these steps in the process are abused it can have major impacts on the final product. When being harvested the time from stun to chill can drastically change the pH and color of the meat. Normally it would take ~45 min for the harvest process to take place but if something goes wrong during the process or some hindrance occurs; pale, soft, and exudative (PSE) is likely to occur even though the right raw material was brought for harvest.

Consumers want a good eating experience (juiciness, tenderness, and flavor), however the pork industry has demanded high efficiency animals. With selection being heavily focused on efficiency (i.e. FCR) and not accounting for quality (i.e. IMF, color, pH) many genetic companies have produced pork that the consumer does not want and when they do eat pork decide they won’t be a repeat customer, driving the demand for pork in the wrong direction. Quality traits of interest can be antagonistic with efficiency traits (van Wijk, H. J., et al., 2005), however the power of genomics gives a more accurate EBV of these phenotypes and can assist in breaking these relationships allowing geneticists to select for efficiency and taste. If we want to improve the demand for pork both globally and domestically we have no choice but to incorporate eating experience traits into the evaluation.

Genesus has made the decision to focus on meat quality by directly measuring it since 1998. The Genesus Duroc is known specifically for extreme growth and the best meat quality in the industry. The power of genomics accelerates the effectiveness of genetic improvement. As Genesus continues to test animals through dissections and genomics, this gives rise to the most effective way to select for carcass merit and meat quality while breaking apart antagonistic relationships. As the industry continues to evolve and the push for meat quality continues to grow the Genesus Duroc will be a step ahead of the competition because we have focused on efficient improvement while maintaining the best eating experience.

Figure 1.


Gale, F. and Huang, K. 2007. Demand for Food Quantity and Quality in China. ERR-32. Economic Research Service, USDA.

Ngapo, T.M., and Gariépy, C. 2008. Factors affecting the eating quality of pork. Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 48(7): 599–63

van Wijk, H. J., et al., 2005. Genetic parameters for carcass composition and pork quality estimated in a commercial production chain. J. Anim. Sci. 83(2): 324-33.

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