Comparison of the effects of different transport conditions and lairage times in a Mediterranean climate in South Africa on the meat quality of commercially crossbred Large white x Landrace pigs
Information on the effect of road transportation conditions and lairage times on the meat quality of pork under South African conditions is very sparse. In this investigation, the effects of 2 road conditions (rough road with frequent stops - A; smooth road, few stops - B) and 2 lairage holding periods (2 h and 24 h) on the physical meat quality attributes of commercially produced pigs during summer (ambient temperatures >30 °C) in the Western Cape (South Africa) were investigated. Pig meat from pigs transported on a road that caused more stress (A), had lower pH45 (measured 45 min post mortem) values after 2 h lairage than pigs transported over a smoother road. Pigs B had a lower muscle pH24 (measured 24 h post mortem) than group A, indicating that they had more glycogen reserves available for post mortem glycolysis. Road conditions A were more stressful resulting in a higher incidence of PSE pork, as shown by the percentage drip loss and the L* values. When the lairage period was increased to 24 h prior to slaughter, pigs transported under road conditions A had time to replenish their energy reserves and the pH45, drip loss and L* values were within an acceptable range. However, pigs transported under road conditions B had lower pH45 and higher pH24 values, indicating that the lairage period was too long and that energy reserves were depleted in order to adapt to the stressful conditions. Results from this investigation indicate that improvement of the transport/road conditions will result in better pork quality.