Pork from stressed pigs tastes like dust
HEALTH & SCIENCEBy ROSE MUKONYO | Mon,Sep 13 2021 06:00:00 EATBy ROSE MUKONYO | Mon,Sep 13 2021 06:00:00 EAT
If you ever ate pork and your taste buds mistake the meat for plywood, blame it on the way the pigs were brought up-and even transported to the butchery.
Pigs fight during transport to establish social order resulting in injuries affecting quality of meat. A study released by livestock experts and a local university has linked how pigs are treated including any cruelty during slaughter to even the safety of pork chops and ribs.
The study by World Animal Protection, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and the University of Nairobi, titled ‘Animal Welfare and food safety in Nairobi Pork Value Chain’ also collected info on where the pigs were farmed and revealed that a quarter of pork sold, accounting for 25.83 percent produced was of poor quality and majority of pigs were poorly stunned and died in pain.
Dr Victor Yamo, the Farming Campaigns Manager at World Animal Protection explains that pigs are sentient and ought to be treated humanely during production, transportation and slaughter where they were painfully marked on the ears with sharp objects for identification at the lairage.
“These identification lacerations will be avenues for pathogens such as bacteria and pigs should be marked without pain, like using paint markers,” he explained.
The study also showed half of the pigs were kept for more than 24 hours between purchase and slaughter, further degrading the quality of pork and Dr Yamo reckons “pigs should not be kept for more than 18 hours without food and water as this leads to the animal utilizing its energy reserves to sustain normal body functions causing weight loss hence reduced meat for sell.”
Dr Yamo adds that meat from a stressed pig tends to lose excess water as compared to non-stressed pigs and weighs less leading to loss of income.
Pigs bought from different farms fight during transport to establish social order in ‘animal farm’ resulting in injuries while others were ferried while tied on motorbikes, causing injuring which affects the quality of meat.
“Strapping pigs onto motorbikes cause injuries such as lacerations, bruises, and fractures leading to a downgrading of the meat, which translates to less income for the farmers,” said Dr Yamo.
Animal welfare thus influences greatly what ends up as roast pork ribs and the pig industry needs to have a snout at this issue which includes stunning pigs to render them unconscious before slitting the neck and that improperly stunned animals bleed while still alive.
Dr Yamo explains that “as the animal is still conscious and normal breathing, it inhales blood from the cut part which is the throat, into the lungs which lower meat quality as it shortens the shelf life of the meat.”
The study also revealed that most stunning was incorrectly done because fewer amperes were used on the stunning device of 0.3 Amperes, which is below the recommended current of 1.2 Amperes.
Dr Yamo also adds that pigs should be properly restrained before stunning and the stunning device should be clean and well placed on the neck at the base of the ears and “the electrodes on the stunning gun have to be cleaned daily for effective transmission of current as some are usually dirty, old, and corroded.”
Pig farmers are also used to self-medicating animals even when they’re not sick and Dr Yamo advices them to detest from such practices and instead “get the treatment history of pigs, ensure the pigs are not under treatment and to know if drug withdrawal period has passed since the last treatment.”
According to Terrestrial Animal Health Code, animal welfare means the physical and mental state of an animal which includes healthy, comfortable, and well-nourished animals and not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress, be it from discomfort, injury and fear.
Dr Yamo argues that violation of these rights on the pigs affects the quality of pig products and this means ensuring pigs are sufficiently fed, drink clean water, and that the feed should not have toxins that will eventually find way into plates as bacteria and fungi.
Comfortable dwelling is another issue as when “animals are overcrowded, it will expose the animals to diseases due to stress” and that a pigsty “should be well ventilated to avoid respiratory diseases.”
Freedom from pain revolves around avoiding painful mutilations, castrations, teeth clipping, and teeth docking, which according to Dr Yamo, are good management but they should be done in a painless manner as “a pig that arrives at the processing plant tied on a wheelbarrow with its head turned backward will be releasing hormones that have an impact on the meat quality and have the potential of contamination of the product.”