Animal welfare, including at the slaughterhouse, can have an impact on meat quality, delegates at a conference have heard.
Katja Rosenvold, project manager at Anzco Foods in New Zealand, speaking at the IMS Symposium on Future Industrial Meat Production in Copenhagen, Denmark, said that feed deprivation and stress induced during handling at slaughterhouses may result in reduced glycogen stores in livestock. Glycogen levels at slaughter determine meat pH, high levels of which have an impact on meat quality, such as colour and tenderness.
Multiple stresses, accumulated throughout the production chain, may also affect muscle pH in livestock. If individual parts of the production chain are optimised – for example, farmers ensure the animals leave the farm in the best possible condition, processors reduce stress during transport, and slaughterhouse processes are optimised – meat quality can be enhanced.
“It’s an opportunity to improve meat quality by optimising individual components to reduce stress,” said Rosenvold. “This means the impact of a single unexpected stress event is less likely to reduce glycogen and therefore affect meat pH.”
Other meat quality impacts from stress include bleeding and skin damage, which can ultimately reduce income.
Documentation is therefore vital, said Margit Dall Aaslyng, senior consultant, meat technology, at DMRI. “If you want the market to advance, you need to be able to say: ‘This is the current state of the animal welfare’,” she said. “And for that you need to have documentation. It will also show you if there has been deterioration in animal welfare standards.”
To be effective documentation needs to be simple, meaningful, valid and cheap, she added. “The industry has come a long way over the past 10 years in terms of animal welfare. One of the advantages of having good documentation is that you can go out and show this. You can gain positively from it.”