(Updated July 2010)
SE is caused by a combination of factors which stress the animal and cause a rapid decline in meat PH.
- Pig genetics - Pigs which either carry or are homozygous positive for the PSS (porcine stress syndrome) stress gene have more PSE. Pigs that are totally free of the Halothane stress gene can still get PSE if they are handled roughly in the stunning area.
- Poor chilling at the slaughter plant will increase PSE because the internal temperature of the meat is lowered too slowly.
- PSE increases if pigs are handled roughly at the plant because excited pigs become over-heated. The last fifteen minutes before stunning is very critical. Rough handling, electric prods, and jamming raise lactate levels which damages meat quality. Careful quiet handling in the stunning area is essential for best pork quality.
- In the spring when the weather starts to get warmer, PSE tends to increase. Weather and temperature fluctuations can also increase meat quality problems in pigs.
Preventing PSE (Pale Soft Exudative Pork) in Pigs
- Provide adequate pen space in holding pens at the plant.
- 6 sq feet (.55sq meters) per 250lb (113kg) pig.
- All pigs must have room to lie down.
- During hot weather wet animals down with sprinklers.
- Allow 2 to 4 hours of rest prior to stunning.
- Handle and drive animals quietly and reduce or eliminate electric prod usage. Excited pigs are more likely to have poorer quality pork. Pork quality can be ruined during the last five minutes prior to stunning. This is why it is so important to handle pigs quietly.
- NEVER fill the forcing pen more than one half to three quarters full. Animals need room to turn so they can enter the race more easily.
- Pigs must always have access to water.
- Measuring the levels of lactate in the blood at bleeding can be used as a test to monitor handling in the stunning area. High lactate at bleeding is associated with higher drip loss and poorer pork quality.
Edwards, L.N., Engle, T.E., Correa, J.A., Paradis, M.A., Grandin, T., and Anderson, D.B. 2010. The relationship between exsanguination blood lactate concentration and carcass meat quality in slaughter pigs. Meat Science. Vol 85, pp. 435-440.
Grandin, T.(1994). Methods to reduce PSE and bloodsplash. Allen D. Leman Swine Conference. Volume 21, pages 206-209. College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota.
Grandin, T.(1988). Environmental Enrichment for Confinement Hogs. Livestock Conservation Institute. 1988 Annual Meeting Proceedings. 1910 Lyda Drive, Bowling Green, Kentucky 42104-5809. Pages 119-123
For more information, check out Meat and Poultry's website.
Recommended design layouts for pork facilities
Ways to Improve Animal Movement in Existing Slaughter Facilities
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