Marbled pork could soon become consumer preference
With talk of greater pork marbling standards, leaner cuts could become a second choice for consumers, an October Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) newsletter
Marbling gives pork enhanced texture and flavor, says Dr. Jon Meadus, AAFC research scientist, in the newsletter. He is working to produce pigs with more intramuscular fat (IMF), or marbling fat, to develop pork that is juicier, tastier and can be sold for premium prices.
"The ability to consistently deliver pork products with higher IMF … would provide a competitive advantage in specific distribution channels and sectors focusing on high-end table meat products for the retail and foodservice trade," Michael L. Young, vice-president of technical programs and marketing services at Canada Pork International, told Farms.com.
"Higher IMF pork, combined with other meat quality attributes, like meat colour, firmness, texture and water holding capacity, commands a premium price in the marketplace."
While lean pork is popular among today’s consumers, a market exists for both lean and marbled cuts, says Meadus.
“The best pigs have around 3 per cent to 7 per cent IMF,” he says. “The 7 per cent value would be similar to an AA cut of beef. Meat with more marbling is more tender and not so easily dried out. It's a way to ensure the consumer gets a good cut of meat with excellent flavour and texture.”
In his efforts to produce pigs with more IMF, Meadus will rely on breeding and diet. Substituting corn feed for barley and experimenting with Vitamin A in pigs’ nutrition, Meadus will separate DNA from different boar breeds to determine which genes lead to the most marbling.
“Increased IMF does not significantly raise the fat content of the meat," said Young. "The target is intramuscular fat (inside the muscle). The outside (waste fat) is still trimmed to end-user specifications and consumer preferences."
Despite being in the early stages of his research, Meadus says Duroc and Berkshire breeds typically produce more marbling.
Canadian packers commonly sell high-IMF pork to foreign markets. With his research, Meadus plans to teach breeders about the best marbling genes to create cuts for both Canadian and international markets.
“It's a kind of quality assurance,” he says. “The idea is for Canadian farmers to continue to be top-quality exporters of marbled meat while also bringing that same calibre to products at home.”
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