The growth and carcass and meat characteristics of pigs raised in a free-range or conventional housing system
The growth performance and the carcass and physical and chemical characteristics of the meat of 24 Landrace X Large White pigs were compared when reared under a free-range or a conventional housing system. The free-range pigs had lower feed intakes and slower growth rates than the conventionally housed pigs. The free-range pigs also had a lower P2 fat depth and therefore yielded a carcass with a higher percentage lean meat. Housing systems had no effect on the weight distribution of the commercial cuts (as a percentage of cold carcass weight). The meat from the free-range pigs was slightly more reddish in colour, but apart from that housing systems had no effect on the water-holding capacity (WHC) of the meat, its initial pH (PH 45) or its final pH (pH24). The meat from the free-range pigs had the same shear force (WBS) values as those of the conventionally housed pigs. Housing systems had an influence on the fatty acid composition. Stearic acid (C18:0) was significantly lower in the meat of the free-range pigs than that of the conventionally housed pigs while linoleic acid (C18:2n-6) and polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) concentrations were significantly higher. However, the moisture, fat, protein and ash contents as well as the mineral composition in the meat were unaffected by housing systems. It could be concluded that pigs raised in a conventional housing system produced meat with similar quality characteristics to that of pigs raised in a free-range housing system.