Procedures to Evaluate Pork Composition And Quality

by Wayne F. Gipp


The objective of producing hogs is to provide a high quality pork product for consumers. Evaluation of the quantity and quality of lean pork in hog carcasses has been a component of youth swine projects in Montana for many years. In recent years, the Swine Symbol of Excellence program has provided a means of collating the individual county or event data into a statewide program that recognizes both the youth and the producer for producing hogs that yield high quality carcasses. Many livestock evaluation contests also use an estimate of the amount of high quality lean for ranking live animals.

The goal of carcass evaluation is to provide producers the data and knowledge necessary for continued improvement in the quality of hogs raised. For this to be achieved, consistent and uniform procedures for evaluation are required. It is also critical that the definition of quality and the standards set for quantitative and qualitative criteria be consistent with consumer and processing industry requirements.

The procedures and standards used in Montana have been based on those established by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). A new publication, "Pork Composition & Quality Assessment Procedures" presents the 2000 revisions to the standards and also broadens the scope of carcass assessment. The publication is now targeted toward producers, processors, and other segments of the swine industry and includes a wide range of subjective (visual) and objective (instrumental) estimations of lean muscle quantity and quality in live hogs and in carcasses.

Recognizing that acceptable quantitative or qualitative standards can vary depending upon the ultimate use of the pork, minimum acceptable standards are no longer provided in the publication. Rather, the publication discusses the various aspects of quality and leaves it to the user to set the minimum acceptable standards. The publication has updated the lean prediction equations based on recent research, expresses lean as "standardized fat free lean", which is different from the previous "lean containing 5% fat", refines lean color standards, refines lean marbling standards, and separates, "firmness" and "wetness" evaluations.

The complete publication is an excellent resource for all involved in producing hogs or assessing carcass and pork quality. (Pork Composition & Quality Assessment Procedures, 2000, edited by Dr. Eric Berg, published by National Pork Producers Council, Des Moines, Iowa, (515) 223-2600, , $15.)

Carcass evaluations used for most Montana youth projects do not need all of the information in the NPPC publication. Therefore, the information, procedures and formulas that relate to evaluation of ribbed carcasses (using the steel backfat ruler and loin eye measuring grids) are presented in this factsheet. Photographs depicting color and marbling standards are not included. These are available from NPPC either as a notebook chart ($1), wall chart ($10) or as a packet of laminated cards ($32.50).

NOTE: The evaluation procedures, Fat Free Lean Equations, photos and Quality Standards in this factsheet were adapted with permission from "Pork Composition & Quality Assessment Procedures", published in 2000 by National Pork Producers Council, Des Moines, Iowa.