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Have we underestimated the impact of pre-slaughter stress on meat quality in ruminants

Ferguson, D.M., Warner, R.D.
Meat science 2008 v.80 no.1 pp. 12-19
animal handling, oxidative stress, animal stress, animal husbandry, animal housing, slaughterhouses, animal welfare, animal injuries, beef cattle, mutton, beef quality, physical activity, animal transport
Stress is the inevitable consequence of the process of transferring animals from farm to slaughter. The effects of chronic stress on muscle glycogen depletion and the consequent dark cutting condition have been well documented. However, there has been little examination of the consequences of acute stress immediately pre-slaughter on ruminant meat quality. New evidence is emerging to show that non pH-mediated effects on meat quality can occur through pre-slaughter stress in cattle and sheep. This paper reviews the general aspects of pre-slaughter stress in the pre-slaughter context. It then examines the impacts of pre-slaughter stressors on ruminant carcass and meat quality and considers remedial strategies for remediating and preventing pre-slaughter stress. Further quantification of the biological costs of pre-slaughter stress and the consequences to meat quality is required.