The National Pork Board Animal Science Committee recognized that there is a lack of publicly available information for producers to use when benchmarking productivity in various phases of production. Therefore, they initiated the Industry Productivity Analysis with the purpose of providing data documenting the productivity of U.S. pork production.
The information mined from analysis of this data is intended to benefit all producers through improved productivity at the farm level and will serve to inform the Checkoff programs, academics and other funding agencies about areas of research which are likely to have the greatest impact.
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This booklet is intended to provide producers, veterinarians and veterinary researchers an informational resource of nine years of Checkoff-funded research that focuses on endemic (domestic) swine diseases and foreign animal diseases.
The recently completed Checkoff Consumer Pork Preference Study identified product tenderness as the most important characteristic describing consumer preference for fresh pork. Tenderness is influenced in meat primarily through a proteolytic enzyme called calpain. Increased calpain activity means a more tender meat product. Calpastatin is another enzyme in meat that has many roles in the living animal, but unfortunately inhibits the activity of calpain post mortem. Consequently, lower levels of calpastatin mean better pork tenderness.
A Pork Checkoff study recently completed at the USDA Meat Animal Research Center has identified five highly significant tenderness genes each associated with Calpastatin activity in fresh pork. Up to 80-plus percent of the hogs produced in the pork industry could be carrying these five calpastatin genes— tough pork instead of tenderness.
Research is now needed to determine the associations of these genes with other economically important traits such as growth and lean meat yield and to devise selection programs to select for a tenderer product. Research to improve the way tenderness is measured and influenced is also needed to improve the overall consumer acceptability of pork.