Swine school

by Bob Sims
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AMSA Pork 101 pig holding pen
Attendees had the chance to evaluate live pigs as part of the Pork 101 experience.
STILLWATER, Okla. – Attendees had the chance to evaluate live pigs as part of the Pork 101 experience, held in September at Oklahoma State Univ.

From Sept. 13-15, Oklahoma State Univ., the American Meat Science Association (AMSA), Pork Checkoff, Elanco and Merck Animal Health all came together to offer industry professionals a hands-on education about the pork-processing industry. The September installment of Pork 101 was held at the Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center (FAPC) on the Oklahoma State Univ. (OSU) campus and featured an in-depth look at all aspects of pork production and processing, from farm to fork.

“Pork 101 provides a unique opportunity for individuals from all segments of the industry, from farm to fork, to learn more about the step by step procedures of pork slaughter, fabrication and processing, as well as understand in more detail the science of pork quality and factors that impact pork quality before and after slaughter,” says Gretchen Mafi, Ph.D., Ralph and Leila Boulware endowed chair and professor of meat science at OSU.

Professionals from many different areas of the pork industry attended this year’s event. Among the attendees, sales reps were well represented, but also accountants, media, consultants and customer service representatives all gained knowledge from the Pork 101 coursework and lectures.

“We were happy with the attendance and participation,” Mafi added. “Oklahoma State hasn’t hosted the event for several years and we were pleased to have 33 attendees.”

Meeting the pigs

On the first day, attendees began their learning with a lecture on pork quality from Mafi on topics that covered the attributes of cuts used to determine pork quality, such as color, marbling and tenderness among others, and the metrics and tools used to measure those attributes.

According to Mafi, responsibility for quality, palatable pork falls equally on both producers and packers. The choices producers make relative to feed and feeding, genetic selection and handling all affect the overall quality of the product before it gets to the packer. The packer must then make good pre- and post-slaughter decisions. The most important variables that decide the quality of pork are: genetics; nutrition of the animal; how the pigs are handled on the farm, in transport and during pre-slaughter; stunning and carcass handling. Ideal pork is reddish-pink in color with a pH of 5.6 to 6.2 and marbling equivalent of 2.5 to 4 percent intramuscular fat.

A presentation on pork carcass lean value pricing from Rodney Holcomb, Ph.D., Browning Endowed Chair, Oklahoma State Univ., and a review of the Oklahoma pork industry by Scott Carter, swine nutritionist for the Oklahoma Pork Council followed.

After a live hog evaluation presentation including the opportunity to look at live animals, participants had the chance to evaluate and choose a pig from video after splitting into groups. The groups used their newfound knowledge provided from Pork 101 to look at the shapes and weights of pigs and chose what they thought would give them the best value.

A pre-harvest hog handling presentation by OSU meat science faculty member, Justin Crosswhite, stressed the importance of humane handling. Carcass bruising and transport losses due to death are serious consequences caused by poor pre-harvest handling.

An orientation on safety in the meat laboratory concluded the first day.

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