Effect of breed, finish weight and sex on pork meat and eating quality and fatty acid profile
By 2007 the terminal sire breed that was commonly used in Northern Ireland had changed from Landrace to Pietrain or Tempo due to the onset of Post Weaning Multi Systemic Wasting Syndrome (PMWS). A study was instigated which aimed to examine the production and carcass performance of pigs representative of these breeds. In addition, the meat and eating quality of pork from these pigs was investigated. In total 960 pigs representing genetics from the Landrace, Tempo, Pietrain (Austrian line) and Pietrain (Belgium line) breeds (available in Northern Ireland) were reared under normal commercial conditions. Meat samples from 253 of these pigs (boars and gilts) with finish weights categorised as either light (average 95 kg), medium (average 104 kg) or heavy (average 113 kg) within each breed were taken for meat quality analysis. Ninety six of these samples (12 boars and 12 gilts per breed representing an even spectrum of finish weights between 95 and 115 kg) were also used to test for effects of sex, breed and finish weight on eating quality. A total of 39 meat samples from pigs with heavy finish weights were also analysed to test for effects of breed on the fatty acid profile of the pork. The highest growth rate during finish was attained from Tempo pigs. However, the carcass performance of Pietrain pigs (both Austrian and Belgium lines) was superior to that of the Landrace or Tempo pigs.
Financially, a similar margin over feed was attained using Tempo and Pietrain (Austrian) pigs when growth and carcass performance were considered. Sex had little effect on the meat or eating quality of the pork. Finish weight had no effect on eating quality although meat from heavy pigs (which were also fatter and faster growing) had lower Warner-Bratzler Shear Force (WBSF) and cooking loss than meat from light weight pigs. Overall, breed had a more prominent effect on meat and eating quality than sex or finish weight. Meat from Pietrain pigs had a lower WBSF and higher drip loss than meat from Landrace or Tempo pigs. There was a three way interaction between sex, breed and finish weight on the colour measurements of a* and hue angle but overall, meat from Landrace pigs had the lowest a*, b* and Chroma and highest Hue angle. Meat from the Landrace and Pietrain (Belgium) pigs had a higher score (were less acceptable) for flavour (P < 0.05) and aftertaste (P < 0.001) than meat from the Pietrain (Austrian) or Tempo pigs.
Therefore, optimum production performance was attained using the Tempo and Pietrain (Austrian) pigs, and it appears that the meat and eating quality of pork from the Pietrain (Austrian), and in particular the Tempo bred pigs was better than that from the Landrace bred pigs. It is suggested that breed had a larger influence on meat and eating quality than sex or finish weight. It also appears that the fast growth rate of the Tempo bred pigs was not detrimental to the meat or eating quality of the pork. However, overall the eating quality of the pork was considered only satisfactory (average score of 3.5 on an 8 point scale) which indicates that further improvement is required.