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The Impact of Grouping on Skin Lesions and Meat Quality of Pig Carcasses

1
Research Group Animal Welfare, 3583 Paal, Belgium
2
Laboratory of Livestock Physiology, Department of Biosystems, KU Leuven, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium
3
Bioengineering Technology TC, KU Leuven, 2440 Geel, Belgium
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(4), 544; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10040544
Received: 2 March 2020 / Revised: 20 March 2020 / Accepted: 23 March 2020 / Published: 25 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Transport on the Road: In Practice)
In practice, unfamiliar pigs are frequently mixed prior to loading in order to obtain groups of uniform weight and to adjust the group size to the dimensions of the trailer compartments. Regrouping pigs is associated with establishing a new social rank via aggressive interactions. Fighting results in skin lesions and pre-slaughter stress, which leads to reduced meat quality. In this study, four grouping strategies, namely, non-regrouping and regrouping at fattening (regrouped at 80 kg and kept till slaughter), loading and lairage, were compared by determining skin lesions and meat quality at slaughter. The non-regrouped pigs showed, at slaughter, fewer skin lesions and better meat quality than the pigs regrouped at loading or in lairage. Pigs mixed at 80 kg at the farm have, in general, a comparable amount of skin lesions and comparable meat quality as the non-mixed group. If mixing is unavoidable, due to large within-group weight variations, mixing at 80 kg can be an alternative to reduce skin lesions at slaughter and to optimise meat quality. However, mixing at 80 kg is still associated with aggressive interactions after regrouping and with weight variations at slaughter.
In practice, unfamiliar pigs are frequently mixed prior to loading in order to obtain groups of uniform weight and to adjust the group size to the dimensions of the trailer compartments. Mixing pigs induces aggressive interactions to establish a new social rank. Fighting results in skin lesions and pre-slaughter stress and, in turn, reduced meat quality. A study was performed to compare the effect of non-regrouping and regrouping at fattening (at 80 kg and kept till slaughter), loading and lairage. A total of 1332 pigs were included over 30 transports from one pig farm to one slaughterhouse (110 km). Skin lesions were determined on 1314 carcasses. Meat quality was measured on 620 pigs. The non-regrouped pigs had fewer skin lesions and better meat quality than the pigs regrouped at loading or in lairage. Pigs mixed at 80 kg at the farm had, in general, a comparable amount of skin lesions and comparable meat quality as the non-mixed group. If mixing is unavoidable, due to large within-group weight variations, mixing at 80 kg can be an alternative to reduce skin lesions at slaughter and to optimise meat quality. View Full-Text
Keywords: grouping; meat quality; pigs; skin lesions; transport grouping; meat quality; pigs; skin lesions; transport
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Driessen, B.; Van Beirendonck, S.; Buyse, J. The Impact of Grouping on Skin Lesions and Meat Quality of Pig Carcasses. Animals 2020, 10, 544.

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