With such a high emphasis on Quality in our export markets, it's vital that farmers recognise this in the paddock because this is where Quality starts. Stock that are stressed before slaughter will have high pH in their muscles and the meat will have limited shelf life and consumer satisfaction.
Ideally meat should have a pH of around 5.5, and it's acceptable up to 5.8. This will produce good red meat that will be excellent to eat. In a range from 5.8 to 6.2, the meat begins to be unacceptable and tough. Above 6.2 and up to pH of 7.0, the meat will be relatively tender but will go a dark colour and will spoil quickly and have little flavour on cooking. Dark meat when displayed in a supermarket has little customer appeal and shoppers assume it is 'going off'.
Controlling pH is all about handling stock before they go for processing. The amount of glycogen in the muscle determines the pH of the meat and acute stress before slaughter causes glycogen breakdown thus increasing pH.
Stock buyers are urging farmers to do the following:
- Sort out stock for slaughter at least a week before they are transported.
- Put them on good pasture to build up their glycogen levels.
- In their new groups they will have time to sort out their social order.
- Leave them in this group during yarding, and trucking. The meat company will keep them together right up to the point of slaughter.
- Handle them quietly with no dogs or sticks, especially during yarding and loading. Give your stock plenty of time.
- If the transporter is late -don't let your stock be sacrificed by rushing them, in a bid to make up time.
- Make sure the yards have nothing to damage hides or bruise flesh like protruding bolt heads, nails or splintered rails.
- Get the vet to dehorn any stock intended for slaughter at least a month before slaughter. Don't buy stock with horns in future.
- Ensure the loading ramp is safe and the truck can back up squarely leaving no gap for legs to get down.
- Make sure the truck is clean before your stock are loaded.
- Ensure the truck operator does not mix you stock with others to save space.
- Empty out stock for at least 8 hours before trucking, giving them access to good clean water.