“Animal Welfare and Meat Quality: The Importance of Proper Livestock Handling and Control in the Agricultural Sector”

2023-05-29 22:01:07

Manuel Fernndez Vzquez, agricultural engineer


Improper handling of livestock causes stress in the animals. This stress leads to metabolic and hormonal changes at the muscular level in the living animal, which translate into changes in color, pH and water retention capacity in the muscle. post mortem. As a consequence of this, the characteristics of the meat change, making it less acceptable to the consumer and shortening the useful life of the product.

Controls in the livestock-chronic sector

In recent years, there has been a growing concern on the part of consumers regarding the fact that animals must be raised under animal welfare standards and handled humanely, aspects that must be registered in a product traceability system, in order to differentiate them. This has led to an increase in legal and regulatory demands around animal welfare.

In reports carried out by the Bureau Veritas company, it was possible to verify that when animals experience negative emotions such as fear or stress before being sacrificed, glycogen decomposition occurs in the muscle, which in turn leads to a rapid drop in pH, causing them to decompose. its meat is pale and softer, with little flavor. In the same way, if this drop in glycogen in the muscle is prolonged during the time of transport and handling of the animal, the generation of lactic acid in the meat is reduced, which leads to an increase in pH, in these cases the meats are dark and dry of lower quality.

Legislation and regulations on animal protection

Currently, all production animals have to be raised under the animal welfare standards regulated by European legislation and meet the requirements of the RD. 348/2000, on the protection of animals in livestock farms. RD.348/2,000, of March 10. It incorporates into the legal system Directive 98/58/EC of the Council of July 20, 1998, regarding the protection of animals on farms, which is based on the European Convention of March 10, 1976 and ratified by Spain by instrument of April 21, 1988. Establishes minimum standards for the protection of animals on livestock farms. The aforementioned regulations cover the conditions and technical requirements that farmers must comply with on farms, such as:

  • Knowledge that farm staff must have to properly care for animals.
  • Register in the farm book, the veterinary treatments of the animals.
  • Comply with the comfort conditions of the animals, such as facilities (sufficient spaces, environmental control, adequate food, provision of water and cleanliness of the facilities).

Subsequently, other standards have been established that affect the protection and care of animals, during transport and slaughter. Law 32/2007 of November 7, 2007, referring to the care of animals on farms, transport and slaughter. Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 of the Council of September 26, 2009, referring to the protection of animals at the time of slaughter. RD 37/2014 of January 24, 2014, which regulates aspects related to the protection of animals at the time of slaughter, and RD 542/2016, of November 25, 2016, on health standards and animal protection during transport.

Animal welfare and certificate welfair

The Agro-Food Research and Technology Institute (IRTA), in collaboration with the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development (Neiker-Tecnalia), presented the certification welfair animal welfare, for the main livestock species oriented to food production, such as cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry, and rabbits.

The certification welfair, represented by the Animal Welfare seal, guarantees to the consumer that the animals linked to the seal have lived and have been slaughtered under ethically responsible conditions for animal welfare, in accordance with the protocols established in European projects Welfare Quality y AWIN (Animal Welfare Indicators).

The four basic principles on which Animal Welfare is based are evaluated.

  • A good diet (free from malnutrition and thirst).
  • A good accommodation (with freedom of movement, comfort in the rest area and thermal comfort).
  • A good state of health (absence of pain induced by driving, injuries and diseases).
  • A behavior appropriate to the characteristics of the species. (A positive social behavior, that they can show important behaviors for the species and there are no abnormal behaviors, that they are not afraid of man and a positive general emotional state).

This certification analyzes how the animals really are, beyond the conditions in which they are housed, guaranteed by the livestock farms and slaughterhouses to have exceeded the requirements established by the Welfare Quality Network.

Animal welfare in animal transport

The transport of animals is an important phase of animal production. It can be stressful and exhausting for the animals, having a negative impact on the animal welfare of the animals, leading to significant losses in the quality of the meat of the animals. Since 1977, the protection of animals during transport has been subject to regulation and control by the European Union (EU). The Community level regulation that currently regulates this area is Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 of the Council of December 22, 2004, relative to the protection of animals during transport and related operations and by which the regulations are modified. Directives 64/432/CEE and 93/119 CEE and Regulation (CE) No 1255/07.

On November 30, 2022, RD990/2022, of November 29, on animal health and protection standards during transport, has been published. The entry enters into force on December 1, 2022. RD 542/2016, of November 25, on health regulations and protection of animals during transport, is repealed.

RD 990/2.022 regulates:

  • Authorization and registration of carriers.
  • Authorization and registration of means of transport, for animals.
  • Transport documents.
  • Staff training and registration of people with a training certificate.
  • Obligations of carriers and other operators.
  • Exit points from the EU.
  • Requirements to designate the entry points through which road transport vehicles of live animals of the following species may be introduced: bovine, ovine, caprine, equine, porcine and poultry.

Legislation on animal welfare in slaughterhouses

The Spanish meat industry operates under a strict regulatory framework for the protection of animals, rigorously complying with current legislation and working every day to achieve greater efficiency in animal welfare. On August 24, 2022, the RD.695/2022, of the M of the Presidency, was published in the BOE, which establishes the measures for the control of animal welfare in slaughterhouses through the mandatory installation of Video Surveillance Systems of the Animal welfare in slaughterhouses (SVBA). The purpose of this system is to serve as a tool to improve the self-control protocols of companies in compliance with animal welfare regulations for food production and at the same time reinforce the transparency of a sector that is highly committed to responding. to social expectations regarding the protection of animal welfare.

meat consumption

Livestock-derived foods contain an important source of high-quality protein and provide a variety of essential nutrients and other health-promoting compounds, many of which are lacking in human diets worldwide. Regular consumption of foods of animal origin as part of a well-balanced diet is advantageous for humans, especially those with high needs, such as children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women, women of reproductive age, and older adults.

According to data from M Agriculture, in 2020, 49.86 kg/person of meat (chicken, beef, sheep, pork) were consumed, 10.2% more than in the same previous period, when 45.24 kg were registered. kg/person. Meat consumption decreased in 2019 compared to 2013, going from 52.71 kg to 45.24 kg, to then rebound in 2020. The pandemic and confinement are attributed as causes of the increase. The beef sector in Spain represents around 15.3% of the value of final livestock production and 5.7% of the value of final agricultural production.

The productive activity of the beef sector is based mainly on two differentiated pillars, on the one hand, the subsector dedicated to suckler cow breeding and, on the other, the subsector dedicated to calf fattening, both complementary, but with different locations and models. clearly differentiated from each other.

meat quality

There are various studies in which it has been possible to demonstrate, following certain parameters, that animal welfare influences the quality and organoleptic properties of meat. In various studies it is certified that the stress of the animal at the time of going to the slaughterhouse has a decisive influence on the quality of the meat, this is measured by the pH (drop in pH) and by the color (whiter and paler meat). ). Stress is one of the main causes of defects in animal meat. Depending on the intensity and duration, the negative effects increase.

Consequences of low animal welfare on meat quality:

The livestock-producing sector unifies animal welfare certificates in the B+ Animal Welfare Commitment seal

The livestock-producing sector has unified the six animal welfare certificates, with which it had been operating for three years under the unique B+ Animal Welfare Commitment, to make it easier for consumers to identify certified products in this area.

The interprofessionals for sheep and goat meat (Interovic), beef cattle (Provacuno), white layer pigs (Interporc), Iberian pigs (Asici), poultry meat (Avianza) and rabbit meat (Intercun), under the technical direction of the Spanish Society for Animal Protection (Seproba), have developed this new seal that is already available for operators who opt for it when selling certified meats and products. The arrival of “B+ Compromiso Bienestar Animal” does not exclude the use of the six previous seals, in such a way that the operators will be able to choose the one they want.

#quality #beef #animal #welfare

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