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What is PSE & do I want it in my Pork?

March 8, 2011

There is much information about the care and handling of animals in meat production. However, it affects the food chain in that information and misinformation is put out there that scares consumers.

It’s easy to find stories about abuse of pigs at “factory farms” even though most farms keep their pigs calm. This is due to PSE. According to the National Hog Farmer “Depending on the breed, 5-15% of hogs produce PSE meat. The pigs are healthy, but the pork is of inferior quality.”

A visual from a 4-H meat judging video showing a PSE pork cut – this is undesirable and you probably won’t ever see this in the meat case.

For a more extensive look at the science behind PSE Pork look at this article from the National Hog Farmer. There is a genetic marker in hogs that can mean the trait shows in the meat, and hog farmers have worked hard for decades to breed away from this trait. Additionally, the handling of the hogs makes a difference. Temple Grandin, an animal behavior and slaughter design expert notes “PSE increases if pigs are handled roughly at the plant because excited pigs become over-heated. The last fifteen minutes before stunning is very critical. Rough handling, electric prods, and jamming raise lactate levels which damages meat quality. Careful quiet handling in the stunning area is essential for best pork quality.”

Pigs also must be handled with regards to temperature – this is why many hogs are hauled at night during hot weather. Sprinklers also are used to keep pigs comfortable.

In a nutshell what this means is the care and handling of pigs is directly relative to the quality of meats you buy on the store shelves. PSE doesn’t mean the meat is *bad* in a dangerous kind of way. It’s not something producers or processors wants to see, but technology and sound handling practices mean that healthy, safe pork comes to your table.

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