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J Anim Sci. 2004 Apr;82(4):1206-18.

Free-range rearing of pigs during the winter: adaptations in muscle fiber characteristics and effects on adipose tissue composition and meat quality traits.

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Swiss Federal Research Station for Animal Production and Dairy Products, Posieux 1725, Switzerland.


This research aimed to determine whether outdoor free-range rearing during the winter (average ambient temperature of 5 degrees C) vs. indoor housing (22 degrees C) affects meat quality, muscle metabolic traits, and muscle fiber characteristics. Forty Large White gilts and barrows were blocked by weight within each gender (20 per gender) and allotted randomly into two groups of pigs, with one reared indoors (IN) in individual pens (2.6 m2) and the other reared outdoors (OUT) from December to March in a 0.92-ha pasture. Both groups had free access to the same grower-finisher diet from 23 to 105 kg. At slaughter, adipose (backfat [BF] and omental fat [OF]) and muscle tissues (longissimus muscle [LM], rectus femoris [RF], and semitendinosus [ST]) were obtained from the right side of each carcass. Muscle fibers were stained and classified on the basis of stain reaction as slow-oxidative (SO), fast oxidative-glycolytic (FOG), and fast glycolytic (FG); fiber area and distribution were determined. Also assessed were carcass characteristics, initial and ultimate pH, L*a*b* values, drip loss percent, glycolytic potential (GP), and intramuscular lipid content, as well as the fatty acid profile of each muscle and adipose tissue. The OUT pigs had lower (P < 0.05) ADG and leaner (P < 0.05) carcasses than IN pigs. Rearing environment did not (P > 0.63) affect the intramuscular lipid content of the ST, but intramuscular lipid content was lower (P < 0.01) in the LM and tended to be higher (P = 0.06) in the RF of OUT than in those of IN pigs. In the BF outer layer of the OUT pigs, the higher PUFA content was compensated by both a lower (P < 0.01) saturated and monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) content, whereas in the OF, LM, and dark portion of the ST, only the percentage of MUFA was decreased (P < 0.01). In all tissues of the OUT pigs, the linolenic acid content was higher (P < 0.01) and the n-6:n-3 ratio was lower (P < 0.01). The GP of all muscles was higher (P < 0.01), and the ultimate pH of the RF and ST was lower (P < 0.01), in OUT compared with IN pigs. Lightness (L*) values were lower (P < 0.01) in the LM. Percentages of drip loss were higher (P < 0.05) in the LM and light portion of the ST of OUT than in those of IN pigs. The LM and RF of OUT pigs had more (P < 0.01) FOG and fewer (P < 0.01) FG fibers than muscles of IN pigs. Results suggest that rearing pigs outdoors increases aerobic capacity of glycolytic muscles but has little concomitant influence on meat quality traits.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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