Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Meat Safety and Quality » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #333381

Title: Comparison of variability in pork carcass composition and quality between barrows and gilts

item OVERHOLT, M.F. - University Of Illinois
item ARKFELD, E.K. - University Of Illinois
item MOHRHAUSER, D.A. - Smithfield Foods, Inc
item King, David - Andy
item Wheeler, Tommy
item DILGER, A.C. - University Of Illinois
item Shackelford, Steven
item BOLER, D.D. - University Of Illinois

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/22/2016
Publication Date: 10/24/2016
Publication URL:
Citation: Overholt, M., Arkfeld, E., Mohrhauser, D., King, D.A., Wheeler, T.L., Dilger, A., Shackelford, S.D., Boler, D. 2016. Comparison of variability in pork carcass composition and quality between barrows and gilts. Journal of Animal Science. 94:4415-4426. doi:10.2527/jas2016-0702.

Interpretive Summary: The objective of the study was to characterize variability differences in carcass composition and quality between barrows and gilts. Even though a multiple marketing group strategy was used to minimize variability of hot carcass weight, barrows were more variable than gilts for traits associated with fat deposition, with the exception of fat quality, and there were minimal differences in variability between sexes for traits associated with carcass lean or quality traits not directly related to fat. Understanding the differences in variability offers the opportunity for the pork industry to minimize variation, improve product uniformity and consumer eating experience, and, ultimately, capture additional revenue from each carcass by managing variability of the pig due to sex.

Technical Abstract: Pigs (N = 8,042) raised in 8 different barns representing 2 seasons (cold and hot)and 2 production focuses (lean growth and meat quality) were used to characterize variability of carcass composition and quality traits between barrows and gilts. Data were collected on 7,684 pigs at the abattoir. Carcass characteristics, subjective loin quality, and fresh ham face color(muscles) were measured on a targeted 100% of carcasses. Fresh belly characteristics, boneless loin weight, instrumental loin color, and ultimate loin pH measurements were collected from 50% of the carcasses. Adipose tissue iodine value (IV), 30 min loin pH, LM slice shear force, and fresh ham muscle characteristic measurements were recorded on 10% of carcasses. Data were analyzed using the MIXED procedure of SAS as a one-way ANOVA in a randomized complete block design with two levels (barrows and gilts). Barn (block), marketing group, production focus, and season were random variables. A 2 variance model was fit using the REPEATED statement of the MIXED procedure, grouped by sex for analysis of least square means. Homogeneity of variance was tested on raw data using Levene's test of the GLM procedure. Hot carcass weights of pigs (94.6 kg) in this study were similar to United States industry average HCW (93.1 kg). Therefore, these data are representative of typical U.S. pork carcasses. There was no difference (P = 0.09) in variability of HCW or loin depth between barrow and gilt carcasses. Back fat depth and estimated carcass lean were more variable (P = 0.0001), and iodine value (IV) less variable (P = 0.05) in carcasses from barrows than gilts.Fresh belly weight and thickness were more variable (P = 0.01) for bellies of barrows than gilts, but there was no difference in variability for belly length, width, or flop distance (P = 0.06). Fresh loin subjective color was less variable (P < 0.01) and subjective marbling was more variable (P <0.0001) in loins from barrows than those from gilts, but there were no differences (P = 0.08) in variability for any other loin traits or fresh ham traits. Overall, traits associated with carcass fatness, including back fat depth, belly thickness, and marbling, but not IV, were more variable in carcasses from barrows than gilts; whereas, minimal differences in variability existed between carcasses of barrows and gilts for traits associated with carcass muscling and lean quality.