Pigs from crosses of a Piétrain (Pi) and a Large White×Piétrain (LwPi) heterozygous (Nn) boar lines with Landrace×Large White homozygous negative (NN) sows, were used to study the effect of halothane gene and pre-slaughter treatment on animal welfare and meat quality. A total of 83 gilts (47 NN and 36 Nn) were assigned to a long treatment (3 h 15 min transport and 12 h lairage) and 73 (39 NN and 34 Nn) to a short treatment (30 min transport and 2 h lairage). Heart rate was recorded throughout loading and transport. Blood samples were collected before loading, after transport, and at exsanguination to measure cortisol, creatine phospho-kinase (CPK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). Carcasses were classified and commercial cutting was carried out. Meat quality was assessed on the Longissimus thoracis muscle by measuring electrical conductivity (PQM), colour (Minolta CR 200 and Japanese scale) and ultimate pH. Loin drip losses were assessed at 24 h. Halothane carriers showed a higher increase in cortisol levels after transport and exsanguination in the long treatment (P<0.05) as well as in LDH and CPK after exsanguination in the short treatment (P<0.05). In this treatment, halothane-free pigs recovered during lairage when comparing LDH and CPK increases after exsanguination to their increases after transport. No effect of the halothane gene on heart rate was observed. Pi sired pigs were leaner and had higher yields of leg and loin compared with LwPi sired pigs (P<0.001), but no differences in meat quality were observed between crosses. Halothane carriers had a higher estimated lean content (P<0.01) and shoulder and leg yields (P<0.01), but poorer meat quality than non-carriers (i.e. higher incidence of PSE meat, P<0.001). Although pre-slaughter treatment and halothane genotype did not significantly affect pHu, significantly higher L*, a* and b* values found in the short treatment and Nn individuals indicated paler meat. These results suggest that for improving meat quality and welfare the halothane gene should be removed from breeding schemes. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Halothane genotype
- Meat quality