Surgical Castration of Piglets and Its Alternatives: National Strategies, Consequences for Animal Welfare, Production Systems and Product Quality

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Pigs".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2020) | Viewed by 70052

Special Issue Editors

Department of Behavioral Physiology of Livestock (460f), Institute of Animal Science, University of Hohenheim, Garbenstraße 17, 70599 Stuttgart, Germany
Interests: livestock physiology; endocrine regulation of growth; endocrine regulation of reproduction; meat quality; endogenous and exogenous influences on endocrine regulation; animal husbandry systems
IRTA, Finca Camps i Armet s/n, 17121 Monells, Spain
Interests: carcass and meat quality; consumer acceptance studies; boar taint; carcass grading; X-ray computed tomography applied in live animals and carcasses
Dr. Michel Bonneau
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
IFIP, The French Pork and Pig Institute, La Motte au Vicomte, B.P. 35104, 35 651 Le Rheu CEDEX, France

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Surgical castration of male piglets has been a traditional measure for centuries to avoid boar taint, the sex-specific off odor of pork, and to reduce problems due to male-specific behavior. As this surgery has been carried out mainly without anesthesia or pain relief, however, this practice has faced increasing criticism during the last decade, as it is painful for the animals. These societal concerns about animal welfare as well as the improved growth performance of entire males have triggered discussions around omitting surgical castration or switching to alternative methods of castration to avoid welfare problems. Today, in addition to welfare aspects and the effect of gonadal status on product quality, other criteria of sustainability such as the environmental impact of pork production have gained increasing importance for the pork chain and influence the discussion. Additionally, scientific knowledge and techniques to reduce boar-specific quality and welfare problems have increased tremendously, as numerous scientific groups have focused on these topics. Thus, depending on the market and the consumer attitudes, different national strategies have been established in the pork chain or are being discussed for the future. In part, these discussions have already influenced legislation, so that in some countries, traditional surgical castration is already not legal anymore, and alternatives predominate. The aim of this Special Issue is to give an overview of the different situations (production system, strategies, consumer attitudes) all over the world and to summarize the scientific state of the art of alternatives to traditional surgical castration without anesthesia and their consequences for the pork chain, from production and product quality to consumer acceptance.

Prof. Ulrike Weiler
Dr. Maria Font-i-Furnols
Prof. Igor Tomasevic
Dr. Michel Bonneau
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • surgical castration
  • piglets
  • boar taint
  • anesthesia
  • pain relief
  • animal welfare
  • boar-specific quality
  • production system
  • consumer attitudes

Published Papers (23 papers)

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Editorial

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6 pages, 510 KiB  
Editorial
Alternatives to Piglet Castration: From Issues to Solutions
Animals 2021, 11(4), 1041; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11041041 - 07 Apr 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1868
Abstract
Because castrated male pigs convert feed into meat less efficiently than entire males, they are less efficient regarding the utilization of resources [...] Full article
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Research

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15 pages, 791 KiB  
Article
Can Hydrolysable Tannins in Diet of Entire Male Pigs Affect Carcass, Pork Quality Traits, Amino and Fatty Acid Profiles, and Boar Taint, Skatole and Androstenone Levels?
Animals 2021, 11(3), 896; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030896 - 21 Mar 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2313
Abstract
The slaughtering of entire males increases the probability of incidence of tainted pork due to the presence two main compounds—androstenone and skatole. If a surgical castration of young entire male pigs is stopped in the EU countries, fattening of boars is likely to [...] Read more.
The slaughtering of entire males increases the probability of incidence of tainted pork due to the presence two main compounds—androstenone and skatole. If a surgical castration of young entire male pigs is stopped in the EU countries, fattening of boars is likely to become one of the most commonly used systems in pig farming. Since skatole production and accumulation in fat tissue can be controlled by dietary approaches, several studies have investigated various feed additives to reduce this compound of boar taint. Ones of the most promising is tannins. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of different dietary tannin level supplementation on carcass, pork quality, chemical, amino and fatty acid composition. as well as perception of boar taint and accumulation of skatole and androstenone in adipose tissue. Eighty entire males were randomly distributed to control (T0) and four experimental groups. Control pigs received standard feed mixture (16.8% CP, 13.9 MJ ME) without any tannin supplementation. Experimental pigs received the same diet with administration of 1% (T1), 2% (T2), 3% (T3) and 4% (T4)—sweet chestnut extract rich in hydrolysable tannins for 40 days (from average live weight of 80 kg until slaughter at average weight 122.28 kg ± 5.63 kg). Dietary tannins supplementation did not show any significant effect on chemical composition, cholesterol content, and amino acid composition of muscle as well as fatty acid composition and androstenone accumulation in adipose tissue. A slight or small effect was observed on carcass and meat quality, respectively. Pigs in groups T4 and/or T3-T4 had higher electrical conductivity in semimembranosus muscle and cooking loss value compared to T1, T2 or T0, T1, and T2 groups (p < 0.05). Tannins in the pig’s diet greatly affected fatty acid profile in meat of entire males. The highest tannin levels (4%) increased concentrations of lauric, myristic, vaccenic, linoleic, total PUFA, and n-6 PUFA in muscle compared to the control. Similar results were found in group T3 except for vaccenic, linoleic, and total PUFA. On the contrary, concentrations of heptadecanoic and oleic acids in groups T3 and T4 were lower than those in T1 and T2 groups. Perception of boar taint using „hot iron“ method (insertion a hot iron tip of soldering iron into adipose tissue) tended to decrease in T2 group compared with control. Skatole accumulation in fat tissue was reduced in groups T2-T4 at significance level (p = 0.052–0.055) compared to the control pigs. In summary, tannins supplementation had no effect on chemical and amino acid composition as well as fatty acid profile in adipose tissue, and only slight on carcass value. However, 4% concentration of tannins significantly increased content of some fatty acids compared to control group. Full article
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10 pages, 1354 KiB  
Article
Long-Term Immunocastration Protocols Successfully Reduce Testicles’ Size in Bísaro Pigs
Animals 2021, 11(3), 632; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030632 - 27 Feb 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2023
Abstract
This study aimed to find a suitable immunocastration protocol for male Bísaro pigs (BP) due to the breed and production system particularities. Twenty-five male BP were treated with Improvac® according to three protocols: using two (GrpE2 and L2) or three vaccinations (GrpL3) [...] Read more.
This study aimed to find a suitable immunocastration protocol for male Bísaro pigs (BP) due to the breed and production system particularities. Twenty-five male BP were treated with Improvac® according to three protocols: using two (GrpE2 and L2) or three vaccinations (GrpL3) and starting at 9 (GrpE2) or 13 weeks old (GrpL2 and L3). Eleven animals were kept as intact males (GrpC). Scrotal measurements and the morphometry of the testes and epididymides collected at slaughter were used to survey the effectiveness of the immunocastration compared with the age-matched intact controls. Animals in groups E2 and L3 were kept until 57 weeks, after a second vaccination cycle at 49 and 53 weeks of age. Scrotal dimensions decreased to almost initial values in treated animals until 17 (GrpE2) and 21 weeks (GrpL2 and L3), thereafter increasing to post-pubertal values until around 29 or 37 weeks of age for groups E2 and L2, respectively, but only at 41 weeks in group L3. Between 41 and 49 weeks, scrotal dimensions were similar in treated and control animals, decreasing to the predicted pre-puberty size after the second cycle of vaccination. This study suggests the most suited protocol for males slaughtered at older ages includes three administrations of Improvac® starting at 3 months of age, followed by a second vaccination cycle. Full article
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31 pages, 349 KiB  
Article
Examining Alternatives to Painful Piglet Castration Within the Contexts of Markets and Stakeholders: A Comparison of Four EU Countries
Animals 2021, 11(2), 486; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020486 - 12 Feb 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2377
Abstract
To avoid the occurrence of boar taint in pork, the castration of piglets without pain relief is a common practice in many European countries. The public has been calling for more animal-friendly alternatives, which include anesthesia/analgesia, immunocastration, and the raising of entire males. [...] Read more.
To avoid the occurrence of boar taint in pork, the castration of piglets without pain relief is a common practice in many European countries. The public has been calling for more animal-friendly alternatives, which include anesthesia/analgesia, immunocastration, and the raising of entire males. To prevent potential trade barriers, the European Commission was initially more in favour of a single method. To date, however, only six countries have passed laws banning castration, and the pig farmers in these countries have chosen different alternatives. To understand the reasons behind the continuing fragmentation, this study examines the issue of castration within the context of four national pork production systems: in the Netherlands, France, Slovenia, and Germany. Drawing on in-depth qualitative data, the study demonstrates that stakeholders are generally willing to abandon the practice of piglet castration without anesthesia/analgesia. Their preferences for alternatives are largely dependent on contextual factors, however, including the structure, scale, and cost and quality orientation of the production system. The results imply that, although a single solution for castration is unlikely to evolve amongst the diverse pork-production systems in Europe, a future without the painful castration of piglets is possible if alternatives are accepted to coexist. Full article
15 pages, 1601 KiB  
Article
Early Immunocastration of Pigs: From Farming to Meat Quality
Animals 2021, 11(2), 298; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020298 - 25 Jan 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3693
Abstract
The study aimed to test a very early immunization of pigs to prevent boar taint with regard to its practicability and influence on production performance, its reliability in ensuring good meat and fat quality, and animal welfare. Immunization was already conducted at piglet [...] Read more.
The study aimed to test a very early immunization of pigs to prevent boar taint with regard to its practicability and influence on production performance, its reliability in ensuring good meat and fat quality, and animal welfare. Immunization was already conducted at piglet production stage and could be easily integrated into routine vaccination (week 3) and weaning practices (week 7). The fattening and slaughter performance of the animals was not affected by the immunization regime and was within the usual range. In addition, there were no abnormalities in animal behavior and the prevalence of injuries caused by aggressive interactions. All animals were classified as infertile on the basis of the histological examination of the testicles. However, the testosterone levels measured at slaughter were significantly higher in animals of the early immunization regime than in animals subjected to the standard immunization regime. Androstenone and skatole levels as the main components of boar taint were, on average, higher and varied to a greater extent in early immunized animals. Furthermore, the comparison of the immunization scheme did not result in significant differences for meat quality and for fatty acid composition. Full article
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20 pages, 1424 KiB  
Article
Endocrine Fertility Parameters—Genomic Background and Their Genetic Relationship to Boar Taint in German Landrace and Large White
Animals 2021, 11(1), 231; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010231 - 18 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1900
Abstract
The surgical castration of young male piglets without anesthesia is no longer allowed in Germany from 2021. One alternative is breeding against boar taint, but shared synthesis pathways of androstenone (AND) and several endocrine fertility parameters (EFP) indicate a risk of decreasing fertility. [...] Read more.
The surgical castration of young male piglets without anesthesia is no longer allowed in Germany from 2021. One alternative is breeding against boar taint, but shared synthesis pathways of androstenone (AND) and several endocrine fertility parameters (EFP) indicate a risk of decreasing fertility. The objective of this study was to investigate the genetic background between AND, skatole (SKA), and six EFP in purebred Landrace (LR) and Large White (LW) populations. The animals were clustered according to their genetic relatedness because of their different origins. Estimated heritabilities (h2) of AND and SKA ranged between 0.52 and 0.34 in LR and LW. For EFP, h2 differed between the breeds except for follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) (h2: 0.28–0.37). Both of the breeds showed unfavorable relationships between AND and testosterone, 17-β estradiol, and FSH. The genetic relationships (rg) between SKA and EFP differed between the breeds. A genome-wide association analysis revealed 48 significant associations and confirmed a region for SKA on Sus Scrofa chromosome (SSC) 14. For EFP, the results differed between the clusters. In conclusion, rg partly confirmed physiologically expected antagonisms between AND and EFP. Particular attention should be spent on fertility traits that are based on EFP when breeding against boar taint to balance the genetic progress in both of the trait complexes. Full article
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17 pages, 1401 KiB  
Article
Influence of Immunocastration on Slaughter Traits and Boar Taint Compounds in Pigs Originating from Three Different Terminal Sire Lines
Animals 2021, 11(1), 228; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010228 - 18 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2290
Abstract
The aim of the research was to investigate the influence of terminal sire line (TSL) and male category (MC) on carcass and meat quality of commercial fatteners. The study was performed on 180 pigs originating from three terminal sire lines: A (Pietrain × [...] Read more.
The aim of the research was to investigate the influence of terminal sire line (TSL) and male category (MC) on carcass and meat quality of commercial fatteners. The study was performed on 180 pigs originating from three terminal sire lines: A (Pietrain × Large White), B (pure Pietrain), and C (Pietrain × Duroc × Large White), being assigned to three groups according to MC: immunocastrates (IC, n = 60), surgical castrates (SC, n = 60) and entire males (EM, n = 60). TSL affected most of the carcass and meat quality traits, together with the androstenone concentration. At the same time, MC had a significant effect on fat thickness, ham circumference, drip loss, cooking loss and androstenone and skatole concentrations. A significant interaction effect was observed for carcass length and ham circumference, as well as for most of the measured meat quality traits (except cooking loss, CIE L*, CIE b*, and Warner Bratzler Shear Force (WBSF)). Among the three investigated sire lines, immunocastration was shown to be most beneficial for fatteners sired by the TSL C. However, if deciding to raise EM, fatteners from the TSL B are recommended in terms of carcass and meat quality, although strategies for avoiding boar taint in their carcasses must be taken into consideration. Full article
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13 pages, 384 KiB  
Article
Carcass Characteristics and Primal Pork Cuts of Gilts, Boars, Immunocastrates and Barrows Using AutoFOM III Data of a Commercial Abattoir
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1912; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101912 - 19 Oct 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2697
Abstract
The surgical castration of male piglets as a routine procedure in modern pig production is facing increasing societal criticism. Pork production with boars and immunocastrates are available alternatives, but both have low market shares as it is so far uncertain how the carcass [...] Read more.
The surgical castration of male piglets as a routine procedure in modern pig production is facing increasing societal criticism. Pork production with boars and immunocastrates are available alternatives, but both have low market shares as it is so far uncertain how the carcass characteristics and primal pork cuts of boars and immunocastrates will be estimated in comparison to barrows and gilts. This article therefore evaluates the impact of sex group (gilts, boars, immunocastrates and barrows) on carcass characteristics and primal pork cuts using AutoFOM III data from a commercial abattoir. In our study, weekly slaughter data from a total of n = 36,994 pigs between 2018 and 2019 were analyzed. The results show that gilts had the highest amount of pork per carcass of all sex groups, whereas non-significant differences between boars, immunocastrates and barrows could be observed. Boars had the highest lean meat content, followed by gilts, immunocastrates and finally barrows with the lowest lean meat content. These results suggest that both immunocastration and pork production with boars are sustainable techniques that can replace pork production with barrows without affecting carcass quality. Full article
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14 pages, 818 KiB  
Article
Fat Replacement by Vegetal Fibres to Improve the Quality of Sausages Elaborated with Non-Castrated Male Pork
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1872; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101872 - 14 Oct 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2809
Abstract
Based on the need to find alternatives for the use of meat from non-castrated male pigs that contains high levels of androstenone and skatole, the production of meat products (raw and Frankfurt sausages) with reduced fat content was proposed, as these compounds are [...] Read more.
Based on the need to find alternatives for the use of meat from non-castrated male pigs that contains high levels of androstenone and skatole, the production of meat products (raw and Frankfurt sausages) with reduced fat content was proposed, as these compounds are lipophilic. For this purpose, three batches of each product (total six) were produced. These included a control batch (1); normal fat content and two fat-reduced batches, where (2) fat was replaced with inulin and β-glucan, or (3) fat was replaced with inulin and β-glucan in addition to a skin grape by-product. These groups used meat from non-castrated male pigs that contained 6.25 µg/g androstenone and 0.4451 µg/g skatole. In general, fat-reduced sausages exhibited less brightness than did the controls. The texture results in Frankfurt were similar to those of the control, while Spanish sausage supplemented with grape skin exhibited reduced hardness. Both strategies resulted in a reduction in boar taint, and this reduction was up to 87.3% in raw sausages with grape by-products. Fat reduction could provide an interesting strategy to allow for the use of tainted meat from non-castrated male pigs. Full article
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22 pages, 1092 KiB  
Article
On the Road to End Pig Pain: Knowledge and Attitudes of Brazilian Citizens Regarding Castration
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1826; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101826 - 08 Oct 2020
Cited by 18 | Viewed by 3654
Abstract
We explored the attitudes of Brazilians towards different methods to deal with boar taint in pork (surgical castration without pain control, SC; surgical castration with pain control, SC+PC; immunocastration, IC; raising entire males, EM). Two surveys (Sv1, n = 441 and Sv2, n [...] Read more.
We explored the attitudes of Brazilians towards different methods to deal with boar taint in pork (surgical castration without pain control, SC; surgical castration with pain control, SC+PC; immunocastration, IC; raising entire males, EM). Two surveys (Sv1, n = 441 and Sv2, n = 768) containing closed and open questions were conducted. Nearly 70% of Sv1 and Sv2 participants were unaware that meat of entire males may have boar taint and that SC is widely used in pig production in Brazil. In Sv1, acceptability of SC+PC (63%) and IC (53%) was greater than of SC (15%). In Sv2, acceptability of IC (55%) and EM (52%) was greater than of SC (18%). Open-ended responses indicated that participants objected to inflicting pain to pigs to attain a production goal, and were concerned with organoleptic traits and risks of exogenous residues in pork. Participants’ views regarding the potential increases in the cost of meat due to adoption of alternative methods varied; some argued that avoiding pain justifies an increase in the price of pork and others that this would impact especially lower income citizens. Our findings indicate that participants opposed surgical castration without pain control, and supported alternative methods. However, the concern with potential risks of presence of residues in meat, expressed by a few participants, may need to be addressed among consumers. Full article
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25 pages, 4971 KiB  
Article
Exploratory Survey on European Consumer and Stakeholder Attitudes towards Alternatives for Surgical Castration of Piglets
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1758; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101758 - 28 Sep 2020
Cited by 23 | Viewed by 4495
Abstract
Surgical castration of piglets without pain relief is still common practice in many countries. Possible alternatives for surgical castration are application of pain relief or anaesthesia or production of boars (entire males) and immunocastrates. Each of these alternatives faces advantages and disadvantages which [...] Read more.
Surgical castration of piglets without pain relief is still common practice in many countries. Possible alternatives for surgical castration are application of pain relief or anaesthesia or production of boars (entire males) and immunocastrates. Each of these alternatives faces advantages and disadvantages which may result in different citizen attitudes and consumers acceptability. Understanding which practice is acceptable to whom and why may further stimulate implementation. Consumer (n = 3251) and stakeholder (n = 1027) attitudes towards surgical castration without pain relief, surgical castration with anaesthesia, immunocastration, and production of boars were surveyed from April to June 2020 via an online questionnaire in 16 countries (>175 respondents per country). Surgical castration without pain relief was separated from each of the alternatives due to animal welfare and showed the lowest acceptability (32%). Within the alternatives, a further partitioning between the alternatives was based on perceived quality and food safety, with an acceptance of 85% for applying anaesthesia, 71% for immunocastration, and 49% for boar production. Differences depending on professional involvement and familiarity with agriculture could be observed, mainly for the acceptance of surgical castration without anaesthesia, immunocastration, and boars. Castration with anaesthesia was highly accepted by all types of respondents. Full article
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15 pages, 1789 KiB  
Article
Local Anesthesia in Piglets Undergoing Castration—A Comparative Study to Investigate the Analgesic Effects of Four Local Anesthetics Based on Defensive Behavior and Side Effects
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1752; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101752 - 26 Sep 2020
Cited by 18 | Viewed by 3758
Abstract
The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of four local anesthetics on pain relief during surgical castration under standardized conditions in conscious piglets. Therefore, 71 male piglets (three to seven days) were distributed into control groups (handling, castration without [...] Read more.
The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of four local anesthetics on pain relief during surgical castration under standardized conditions in conscious piglets. Therefore, 71 male piglets (three to seven days) were distributed into control groups (handling, castration without anesthesia or analgesia) and local anesthetic trial groups (procaine, lidocaine, bupivacaine, mepivacaine). Then, 20 min prior to castration, animals of the treatment groups, except piglets in the handling group, received an injection of a local anesthetic or sodium chloride of 0.5 mL intratesticularly and 0.5 mL subscrotally. During injection and castration, defensive behavior was evaluated. Locomotor activity, as well as postoperative bleeding, wound healing and average daily weight gain were assessed to detect side effects. The injection caused increased defensive movements, significantly in the bupivacaine group. Lidocaine and mepivacaine significantly reduced defensive movements during castration, and procaine and bupivacaine only during severing of the spermatic cord. Impairments of locomotor activity were found in piglets injected with lidocaine, bupivacaine or sodium chloride. Considering healing, bleeding and weight gain, no negative impacts were observed. In conclusion, lidocaine and mepivacaine were able to achieve significant pain relief during the castration procedure, whereas procaine and bupivacaine only during the severing of the spermatic cord. Moreover, the injection of bupivacaine seemed to be painful itself. Full article
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17 pages, 12211 KiB  
Article
Developing and Understanding Olfactory Evaluation of Boar Taint
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1684; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091684 - 17 Sep 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2762
Abstract
Trained expert panels are used routinely in boar taint research, with varying protocols for training of panelists and scoring methods. We describe a standardized process for training and scoring, to contribute to standardize the olfactory detection of boar taint. Three experiments are described [...] Read more.
Trained expert panels are used routinely in boar taint research, with varying protocols for training of panelists and scoring methods. We describe a standardized process for training and scoring, to contribute to standardize the olfactory detection of boar taint. Three experiments are described in which we (1) evaluate the importance of training and the effect of the previous sample, (2) determine detection thresholds on strips and in fat for our panel, and (3) test priming panelists before boar taint evaluation. For the final evaluation of boar taint, we propose a consistent three-person evaluation scoring on a 0–4 scale using a final mean score of 0.5 as the cut-off for boar taint. This gave an optimal sensitivity of 0.81 and a specificity of 0.56 compared to chemical cut-offs. Even limited training proved useful, but priming assessors with strips did not improve the evaluation of fat samples. Detection thresholds were higher in fat compared to strips, except for indole. We recommend panelists to always smell a non-tainted control sample after a tainted one as a ‘reset’ mechanism, before continuing. For longitudinal studies, we additionally advise to set up an expert panel with a fixed number of assessors performing each evaluation in duplicate. Full article
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18 pages, 290 KiB  
Article
Attitudes and Beliefs of Eastern European Consumers Towards Animal Welfare
Animals 2020, 10(7), 1220; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10071220 - 17 Jul 2020
Cited by 24 | Viewed by 3584
Abstract
The aim of this exploratory work, because of the existing bias on the size of the sample and some of the sociodemographic characteristics of the participants, was to investigate the Eastern European consumers’ beliefs and attitudes toward animal welfare, to perform a cross-country [...] Read more.
The aim of this exploratory work, because of the existing bias on the size of the sample and some of the sociodemographic characteristics of the participants, was to investigate the Eastern European consumers’ beliefs and attitudes toward animal welfare, to perform a cross-country segmentation analysis and to observe possible differences with their Western European counterparts. For this purpose, a survey was conducted with 5508 consumers from 13 Eastern European countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, North Macedonia, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine) using a questionnaire with nine statements about consumers beliefs regarding animal welfare (aspects of management, ethical issues about animals, and consequences of animal welfare on meat quality and price), one statement about the willingness to pay more for meat produced under better welfare conditions, and four statements regarding attitudes toward animal welfare. Differences between countries were detected for all the statements. Moreover, three clusters of consumers were identified: one with consumers indifferent towards animal welfare; one with consumers concerned about animal welfare, but they believe it is difficult to achieve; and one with consumers concerned about animal welfare, and they believe it is possible to achieve it. Full article

Review

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16 pages, 619 KiB  
Review
How to Improve Meat Quality and Welfare in Entire Male Pigs by Genetics
Animals 2021, 11(3), 699; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030699 - 05 Mar 2021
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2283
Abstract
Giving up surgical castration is desirable to avoid pain during surgery but breeding entire males raises issues on meat quality, particularly on boar taint, and aggression. It has been known for decades that boar taint is directly related to sexual development in uncastrated [...] Read more.
Giving up surgical castration is desirable to avoid pain during surgery but breeding entire males raises issues on meat quality, particularly on boar taint, and aggression. It has been known for decades that boar taint is directly related to sexual development in uncastrated male pigs. The proportion of tainted carcasses depends on many factors, including genetics. The selection of lines with a low risk of developing boar taint should be considered as the most desirable solution in the medium to long term. It has been evidenced that selection against boar taint is feasible, and has been set up in a balanced way in some pig populations to counterbalance potential unfavorable effects on reproductive performances. Selection against aggressive behaviors, though theoretically feasible, faces phenotyping challenges that compromise selection in practice. In the near future, new developments in modelization, automatic recording, and genomic data will help define breeding objectives to solve entire male meat quality and welfare issues. Full article
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12 pages, 245 KiB  
Review
Welfare Aspects of Raising Entire Male Pigs and Immunocastrates
Animals 2020, 10(11), 2140; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112140 - 17 Nov 2020
Cited by 16 | Viewed by 3920
Abstract
For a long time, scientists assumed that newborns have a severely limited sense of pain (if any). However, this assumption is wrong and led to a “start of the exit” from piglet surgical castration. Some of the currently discussed or already implemented alternatives [...] Read more.
For a long time, scientists assumed that newborns have a severely limited sense of pain (if any). However, this assumption is wrong and led to a “start of the exit” from piglet surgical castration. Some of the currently discussed or already implemented alternatives such as general or local anaesthesia during surgical castration raise additional welfare concerns as well as legal problems and/or are hardly applicable. The favoured long-term, welfare-friendly “gold standard” is to raise entire male pigs (EM). However, this may also impose certain welfare problems under the current conventional housing and management conditions. The specific types of behaviour displayed by EM such as mounting and aggressive behaviours but also increased exploration, which are partially linked to sexual maturation, increase the risk for injuries. The current status of knowledge (scientific literature and farmer experiences) on housing of EM suggests that environmental enrichment, space, group-stability, social constellation, feeding (diet and feeder space), health and climate control are critical factors to be considered for future housing systems. From an animal welfare point of view, an intermediate variant to be favoured to reduce problematic behaviour could be to slaughter EM before reaching puberty or to immunize boars early on to suppress testicular function. Immunization against endogenous GnRH can reduce EM-specific problems after the 2nd vaccination. Full article
18 pages, 1542 KiB  
Review
Strategies to Meet Nutritional Requirements and Reduce Boar Taint in Meat from Entire Male Pigs and Immunocastrates
Animals 2020, 10(11), 1950; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10111950 - 23 Oct 2020
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2805
Abstract
This paper reviews the current knowledge on the nutritional requirements of entire male and immunocastrated pigs to obtain an efficient growth, low boar taint level, and good carcass and meat quality. We present the reasons for offering entire males ad libitum access to [...] Read more.
This paper reviews the current knowledge on the nutritional requirements of entire male and immunocastrated pigs to obtain an efficient growth, low boar taint level, and good carcass and meat quality. We present the reasons for offering entire males ad libitum access to the diets in order to optimize their protein deposition potential. Boar taint is one of the major issues in the production of entire males; therefore, the impact of various skatole- and indole-reducing feed ingredients is discussed regarding their efficiency and the possible mechanism affecting skatole and indole production in the hindgut. Entire males have lean carcasses, so their intramuscular fat content can be lower than that of surgical castrates or females and the adipose tissue can be highly unsaturated. The possible nutritional strategies to counteract these effects are summarized. We conclude that immunocastrates can be fed similarly to entire males until the second vaccination. However, due to the metabolic changes occurring shortly after the second vaccination, the requirements for essential amino acids are markedly lower in immunocastrates than in entire males. Full article
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27 pages, 1439 KiB  
Review
Feasibility of on/at Line Methods to Determine Boar Taint and Boar Taint Compounds: An Overview
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1886; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101886 - 15 Oct 2020
Cited by 18 | Viewed by 3325
Abstract
Classification of carcasses at the slaughter line allows an optimisation of its processing and differentiated payment to producers. Boar taint is a quality characteristic that is evaluated in some slaughter plants. This odour and flavour is mostly present in entire males and perceived [...] Read more.
Classification of carcasses at the slaughter line allows an optimisation of its processing and differentiated payment to producers. Boar taint is a quality characteristic that is evaluated in some slaughter plants. This odour and flavour is mostly present in entire males and perceived generally by sensitive consumers as unpleasant. In the present work, the methodologies currently used in slaughter plants for boar taint classification (colorimetric method and sensory quality control-human nose) and the methodologies that have the potential to be implemented on/at the slaughter line (mass spectrometry, Raman and biosensors) have been summarized. Their main characteristics are presented and an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) has been carried out. From this, we can conclude that, apart from human nose, the technology that arises as very promising and available on the market, and that will probably become a substitute for the colorimetric method, is the tandem between the laser diode thermal desorption ion source and the mass spectrometry (LDTD-MS/MS) with automation of the sampling and sample pre-treatment, because it is able to work at the slaughter line, is fast and robust, and measures both androstenone and skatole. Full article
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26 pages, 1981 KiB  
Review
The Use of Pork from Entire Male and Immunocastrated Pigs for Meat Products—An Overview with Recommendations
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1754; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101754 - 26 Sep 2020
Cited by 33 | Viewed by 6075
Abstract
Due to the strong public initiative in Europe and increased regulator focus to mitigate pain, surgical castration of pigs is being gradually abandoned, while the importance of other sex categories like entire males (EM) and immunocastrates (IC) increases. Although beneficial for animal welfare [...] Read more.
Due to the strong public initiative in Europe and increased regulator focus to mitigate pain, surgical castration of pigs is being gradually abandoned, while the importance of other sex categories like entire males (EM) and immunocastrates (IC) increases. Although beneficial for animal welfare and economics, their use also brings forward several quality problems. Besides the occurrence of boar taint in EM, these include excessive carcass leanness, softer fat, meat color and pH deviations, inferior water holding capacity and increased meat toughness. In this paper, the raw material differences between the male sex categories and their influence on product quality are reviewed, and possible solutions are presented. Using EM for dried or thermally processed products may result in lower processing yields and inferior sensory quality, which may partially be prevented by applying specific processing adaptations. Immunocastration is a viable solution, especially when prolonging the vaccination to slaughter interval. Low to medium levels of boar taint can be effectively managed in most of the meat products, applying procedures like cooking, microbial inoculation or masking (by spices and especially smoking), while highly tainted material can be valorized only by combining various methods and/or with dilution of the tainted meat. Full article
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22 pages, 1763 KiB  
Review
Pork Production with Entire Males: Directions for Control of Boar Taint
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1665; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091665 - 16 Sep 2020
Cited by 33 | Viewed by 5097
Abstract
Boar taint is caused by the accumulation of androstenone and skatole and other indoles in the fat; this is regulated by the balance between synthesis and degradation of these compounds and can be affected by a number of factors, including environment and management [...] Read more.
Boar taint is caused by the accumulation of androstenone and skatole and other indoles in the fat; this is regulated by the balance between synthesis and degradation of these compounds and can be affected by a number of factors, including environment and management practices, sexual maturity, nutrition, and genetics. Boar taint can be controlled by immunocastration, but this practice has not been accepted in some countries. Genetics offers a long-term solution to the boar taint problem via selective breeding or genome editing. A number of short-term strategies to control boar taint have been proposed, but these can have inconsistent effects and there is too much variability between breeds and individuals to implement a blanket solution for boar taint. Therefore, we propose a precision livestock management approach to developing solutions for controlling taint. This involves determining the differences in metabolic processes and the genetic variations that cause boar taint in specific groups of pigs and using this information to design custom treatments based on the cause of boar taint. Genetic, proteomic or metabolomic profiling can then be used to identify and implement effective solutions for boar taint for specific populations of animals. Full article
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1 pages, 155 KiB  
Addendum
Addendum: Werner, D.; et al. Early Immunocastration of Pigs: From Farming to Meat Quality. Animals 2021, 11, 298
Animals 2021, 11(4), 996; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11040996 - 02 Apr 2021
Viewed by 1149
Abstract
The authors wish to add the following to this paper [...] Full article
1 pages, 181 KiB  
Erratum
Erratum: Hötzel, M.J.; et al. On the Road to End Pig Pain: Knowledge and Attitudes of Brazilian Citizens Regarding Castration. Animals 2020, 10, 1826
Animals 2021, 11(1), 138; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010138 - 11 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1088
Abstract
The authors wish to make the following corrections to this paper [...] Full article
2 pages, 198 KiB  
Erratum
Erratum: Aluwé, M. et al. Exploratory Survey on European Consumer and Stakeholder Attitudes towards Alternatives for Surgical Castration of Piglets. Animals 2020, 10, 1758
Animals 2020, 10(12), 2388; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10122388 - 14 Dec 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1519
Abstract
The authors wish to make the following corrections to this paper [...] Full article
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