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Effects of Outdoor Housing of Piglets on Behavior, Stress Reaction and Meat Characteristics

  • Yonezawa, Tomohiro (Laboratory of Veterinary Physiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kitasato University) ;
  • Takahashi, Asahi (Laboratory of Animal Feeding and Management, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kitasato University) ;
  • Imai, Satomi (Laboratory of Animal Behavior, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kitasato University) ;
  • Okitsu, Aya (Laboratory of Animal Behavior, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kitasato University) ;
  • Komiyama, Sonomi (Laboratory of Animal Feeding and Management, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kitasato University) ;
  • Irimajiri, Mami (Laboratory of Animal Behavior, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kitasato University) ;
  • Matsuura, Akihiro (Laboratory of Animal Behavior, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kitasato University) ;
  • Yamazaki, Atusi (Laboratory of Animal Feeding and Management, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kitasato University) ;
  • Hodate, Koich (Laboratory of Animal Feeding and Management, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kitasato University)
  • Received : 2011.10.21
  • Accepted : 2012.01.08
  • Published : 2012.06.01

Abstract

Well-designed housing systems are important from the viewpoint of animal welfare and improvement of meat production. In this study, we investigated the effects of outdoor housing of pigs on their behavior, cortisol levels, and meat characteristics. Two groups that were born and raised in a spacious outdoor pen ($4{\times}10$ m for every two sows) or a minimum-sized standard pen in a piggery ($1.9{\times}2.2$ m for every sow) were studied. When their behaviors at the age of 2 to 3 wk were observed, the number of rooting episodes tended to be larger (p = 0.0509) and the total time of rooting tended to be longer (p = 0.0640) in the outdoor-housed piglets although the difference was not significant. Basal salivary cortisol levels of the outdoor piglets at the age of 4 wk were significantly lower than those of the indoor piglets ($5.0{\pm}0.59$ ng/ml vs. $11.6{\pm}0.91$ ng/ml, 30 min after treatment), although their plasma cortisol levels were similar ($53.3{\pm}3.54$ ng/ml vs. $59.9{\pm}4.84$ ng/ml, 30 min after treatment). When the ears were pierced at weaning, plasma and salivary cortisol levels were increased in both groups, even at 15 min after piercing. However, the increase in the outdoor-housed group was significantly less than that in the indoor-housed group. Throughout their lives, body weight and daily gain of the pigs were not significantly different between the two groups. In a meat taste preference test taken by 20 panelists, saltiness, flavor, and color of the outdoor-housed pork were found to be more acceptable. Moreover, when an electronic taste-sensing device was utilized, the C00 and CPA-C00 outputs ($3.78{\pm}0.07$ and $-0.20{\pm}0.023$), which correspond to compounds of bitterness and smells, respectively, were significantly lower in the outdoor-housed pork ($5.03{\pm}0.16$ and $-0.13{\pm}0.009$). Our results demonstrate that the outdoor housing system for piglets induces natural behaviors such as rooting and suppresses the strongest stress reaction of piglets, which could be important for animal welfare. Moreover, the outdoor housing system might change muscle characteristics and improve pork bitterness, flavor, and color. These changes may be preferred by consumers, increasing the sale of these meats.

Keywords

Environmental Enrichment;Salivary Cortisol;Taste Preference;Electronic Taste-sensing System;Animal Welfare

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