Loading Gantry Versus Traditional Chute for the Finisher Pig:
Effect on Fresh Pork Quality Attributes at Close Out
Pig mortalities from the farm to the harvest facility have been estimated to cost the U.S. swine industry over 55 million dollars annually. Improved understanding of the major factors impacting the behavioral and physiological responses of the finisher pig during transportation and its effects on final meat quality is needed. Fresh pork loin quality attribute evaluations were performed over two experiments. Experiment one – closeout pull (no-piling): (n = 2 loads, average number of pigs load = 172, average weight / head = 131.5 ± 1.7 kg) included the comparison of two loading systems on the last pigs marketed (closeout [CO] pigs) from a finishing facility. Experiment two – closeout pull (piling): (n = 2 loads, average number of pigs / load = 172, average weight / head = 114.9 ± 4.8 kg) included the comparison of two loading systems on the last pigs marketed (closeout [CO] pigs) from a finishing facility that experienced a 10 minute delay due to piling on the P loading system. Two loading system designs were compared in the study. The first loading system design (T) was the production system’s traditional metal covered chute. The second design (P) used was a prototype loading gantry constructed of an aluminum covered chute. After loading was complete, pigs were transported ~88.5 km to a commercial packing plant. Initial pH, 24-h pH, Japanese Color Score (JCS) cut, JCS rib, color pass rate and Loin L* were scored on each loin. Experiment one – closeout pull (no piling): Loins from pigs loaded with the P loading system had higher (P = 0.01) 24-h pH and JCS rib values. Pigs loaded on the P loading system tended to have lower (P = 0.06) L* values compared to the T pigs. Although not statistically different (P = 0.14), pigs loaded with the P loading system had 8 % more loins qualify for upper-end foreign markets as evidenced by the color pass rate values. Experiment two – closeout pull (piling): Loins from pigs loaded with the T loading system had higher (P = 0.01) initial pH, but lower (P = 0.03) 2 pH values. Pigs loaded on the T loading system also had higher (P = 0.02) JCS cut values and rib scores, and lower (P = 0.01) L* values, all indicative of a darker, redder meat. Although not statistically different (P = 0.07), pigs loaded with the T loading system had 7 % more loins qualify for upper-end foreign markets as evidenced by the color pass rate values. In conclusion, this investigation has provided data to support changes in facility/loading system design that may ultimately lead to the improvement of pork quality. Results indicate that pigs loaded on the P chute, under routine handling management, have superior meat quality attributes. However, differences in results in this investigation implicate when handling challenges arise these may in turn negate any advantages that the loading system provides.