Effects of trailer design on animal welfare parameters and carcass and meat quality of three Pietrain crosses being transported over a long distance

J Anim Sci. 2012 Sep;90(9):3220-31. doi: 10.2527/jas.2012-4676.


This study aimed at evaluating the effects of trailer design on stress responses and meat quality traits of 3 different pig crosses: 50% Pietrain breeding with halothane (HAL)(Nn) (50Nn); 50% Pietrain breeding with HAL(NN) (50NN); and 25% Pietrain breeding with HAL(NN) genotype (25NN). Over a 6-wk period, pigs (120 pigs/crossbreed) were transported for 7 h in either a pot-belly (PB) or flat-deck (FD) trailer (10 pigs/crossbreed(-1)·trailer(-1)·wk(-1)). Temperature (T) and relative humidity (RH) were monitored in each trailer. Behaviors during loading and unloading, time to load and unload, and latency to rest in lairage were recorded, whereas a sub-population of pigs (4 pigs/crossbreed(-1)·trailer(-1)·wk(-1)) was equipped with gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) temperature monitors. Blood samples were collected at exsanguination for measurement of cortisol, creatine kinase (CK), lactate, haptoglobin, and Pig-MAP concentrations. Meat quality data were collected at 24 h postmortem from the LM and semimembranosus (SM) and adductor (AD) muscles of all 360 pigs. Greater T were recorded in the PB trailer during transportation (P = 0.006) and unloading (P < 0.001). Delta GIT temperature was greater (P = 0.01) in pigs unloaded from the PB. At loading, pigs tended to move backwards more (P = 0.06) when loaded on the FD than the PB trailer. At unloading, an interaction was found between trailer type and crossbreed type, with a greater (P < 0.01) frequency of overlaps in 50NN and 25NN pigs and slips/falls in 50Nn and 50NN pigs from the FD than the PB trailer. Cortisol concentrations at slaughter were greater (P = 0.02) in pigs transported in the PB than FD trailer. Greater lactate concentrations were found in 50Nn and 50NN pigs (P = 0.003) and greater CK concentrations (P < 0.001) in 50Nn pigs. As expected, 50Nn pigs produced leaner (P < 0.001) carcasses, with greater (P = 0.01) dressing percentages, as well as lower (P < 0.001) ultimate pH values and greater (P < 0.001) drip loss percentages in the LM and greater (P = 0.002) drip losses and a paler color (greater L* values, P = 0.02) in the SM than 50NN pigs. When used for long distance transportation under controlled conditions, the PB trailer produced no detrimental effects on animal welfare or pork quality. Pigs with 50% Pietrain crossbreeding appear to be more responsive to transport stress, having the potential to produce acceptable carcass and pork quality, provided pigs are free of the HAL gene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Body Composition
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Genotype
  • Humidity
  • Male
  • Malignant Hyperthermia / genetics
  • Malignant Hyperthermia / veterinary
  • Meat / standards*
  • Swine / genetics
  • Swine / physiology
  • Swine Diseases / genetics
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors
  • Transportation*