Effects of Pre-slaughter handling on meat and carcass quality

Improper and poor pre-slaughter handling of animals during farming, loading, transporting, marketing, unloading, lairaging and stunning have several effects on carcass and meat quality, here are the effects:

  • Mortality of animals: Animals can die from pre-slaughter handling activities. For instance if sick animals are not treated or when animals are transported under harsh environmental and stressful conditions they can die as a result of that. Death of animals is the worst effect of pre-slaughter handling on carcass and meat quality. This is because there is total loss of carcass and meat quality as the dead animal is disposed off.
  • Carcass damages: Carcass damages such as bruising, haemorrhages, skin blemishes, bloodsplash and broken bones (particularly in poultry) are common occurrences found on carcasses due to improper handling conditions. In a bruise, haemorrhage, skin blemish and/or bloodsplash the skin of the animal and the blood vessels may accumulate excessive blood which has to be trimmed off during processing. Trimming part of the carcass off will reduce meat yield and value, expensive and increase processing time. Untrimmed parts have poor appearance and can serve as substrates for microbial growth causing the meat to spoil earlier than the normal. Broken bones may cause bone splinters in meat and this will be dangerous to the consumer if not detected after deboning.
  • Pale Soft Exudative (PSE) and Dark Firm Dry (DFD): Pale soft exudative and dark firm meats are very important meat quality problems that continuous to bedevil the meat industry. Pale soft exudative is associated with pigs and chickens, and DFD affect all species although nowadays both conditions have been suggested to occur in all species. This is because PSE-like conditions continues to be reported in other species. Acute or short term stress such as the use of electric goads, fighting among animal just before sticking, and overcrowding in the lairage cause PSE. Exposing animals to chronic or long time stress such long hours of transportation, food and water deprivation and overcrowding of animals in the lairage can cause DFD carcasses.

PSE and DFD meats are unattractive and more likely to face discrimination by consumers. Pale soft exudative meat looks pale, lean, has soft texture and low water holding capacity and poor functional attributes.

Therefore animals expose to very poor pre-slaughtering conditions will show more carcass and meat quality defects and vice versa. Pre-slaughter handling conditions are very essential factors which contribute to carcass and meat quality defects; therefore it should not be overlooked. When handling animals prior to slaughter, considerations should be made in terms of the kind, species, breed, and age. In addition the way animals are handled in the farm, during transportation, at the market and in the lairage expose them to various stresses. Improper pre-slaughter handling can cause the death of animals, carcass damages, reduction in live weight, pale soft exudative and dark firm dry meats. Poor pre-slaughter handling is also a compromise of animal’s welfare.

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