Livestock And Humanity: Does Stress Affect Meat Taste

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Livestock And Humanity: Does Stress Affect Meat Taste
Livestock And Humanity: Does Stress Affect Meat Taste

Video: Livestock And Humanity: Does Stress Affect Meat Taste

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Video: PHILOSOPHY - Ethics: Killing Animals for Food [HD] 2023, January
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Idyllic picture of farms where different animals enjoy relative freedom (say, periodically graze in the wild), even if it has not disappeared, but today it is found much less often than we would like. The modern scale and pace of meat production leave it less and less space. Take, for example, population growth: if at the beginning of the 20th century the world population was only about one and a half billion, then by 1960 this figure had doubled, and by the end of the century it had reached six billion. Today, according to estimates by the United Nations Population Fund, there are 7.6 billion people in the world. Along with this figure, meat consumption also increased - from 70 million tons in the 60s to 330 million tons in 2017. The point, of course, is not only an increase in the population, but also the fact that over the past half century, meat production has fallen in price and more and more people perceive it not as an element of luxury, but as a completely ordinary part of the diet.

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Alexandra Savina

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Meat prices and production costs are reduced primarily by changing the process itself: farmers strive to do more and bring the product to market faster, shortening the life cycle of the animal. For example, according to a study sponsored by the Association of Chicken Producers, the average time it takes for a chicken to grow and hit the counter has more than halved since 1925, from 112 days to 48 days. The increase in speed isn't just for chickens. For example, in the UK, due to bovine spoorm encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, the thirty-month rule was in effect from 1996 to 2005 (it was finally canceled by 2013). According to him, it was impossible to sell cattle for meat older than thirty months (according to research, up to four years, livestock, even if it is infected, is not dangerous). It is logical that such limited conditions led to the fact that producers sought to quickly fatten livestock and release them for sale - which does not go well with the idea of ​​humanity.

Against the regular consumption of meat, the way its production affects the environment also speaks: according to the UN, animal husbandry accounts for 14.5% of all carbon dioxide emissions into the environment, for which humans are responsible. In addition, the industry requires enormous resources: 80% of the land allocated for agricultural needs is pasture and land for growing livestock feed. Another study claims that agriculture requires more fresh water than any other human activity - and almost a third goes to livestock production. It is logical that today more and more people give up meat - completely or at least several times a week.

Five freedoms that producers must guarantee animals: from hunger and thirst, from discomfort, from pain, injury

and disease, from fear and suffering

and the freedom to behave as usual

We associate the meat industry primarily with cruelty, and it is not surprising: a business built on the killing of animals, even for such a basic need as food, cannot be completely humane by definition. Does this mean that meat production will no longer get better in relation to the slaughtered animals? Not really. For example, some farmers are now switching to different methods of handling livestock and poultry, as opposed to the usual situation. Whether this model can be replicated across the entire industry remains a question - but it is logical that the slow approach gradually permeates here as well. There are also industry-wide changes. For example, a little over twenty years ago, in 1998, the European Commission introduced a directive protecting livestock that are raised for a variety of purposes.It spells out five freedoms that producers must guarantee animals: freedom from hunger and thirst, from discomfort, from pain, injury and disease, from fear and suffering, as well as the freedom to behave as animals usually behave, without restrictions.

Temple Grandin, a researcher dedicated to the humanization of animal management, notes that over the past two decades, the treatment of livestock has changed a lot for the better. “The stunning and handling of animals prior to slaughter has improved dramatically,” she says. - I worked with McDonald’s in 1999 and 2000, and then everything was just awful - broken equipment for stunning, shouting and beatings, poking with an electric gun. Everything is still imperfect now, but much, much better than in those bad old days."

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Many believe that the emotions that an animal experiences during slaughter "permeate" its meat, and then pass it on to us. This is not entirely true, but there is a background to this point of view: how humanely an animal is slaughtered can really affect the taste of the final product. This is a paradoxical but pragmatic explanation for the humanization of the industry: tainted taste matters to sales as well. There are even special terms that denote meat of insufficient quality: pale, soft, and exudative meat - PSE (that is, pale, flabby and watery meat, or essudative), and dark, firm, and dry meat - DFD (that is, dark, tough and dry meat). The problem is so prevalent that the terms appear even in the UN recommendations on the humane treatment of livestock. There are even separate studies explaining that eggs from chickens raised in a free and calm environment will taste better - however, so far this cannot be stated unequivocally.

In the case of meat, the issue has been investigated much more seriously. Both PSE and DFD are closely related to the stress experienced by livestock prior to slaughter. For example, pale, flabby, and watery meat is caused by a higher pH level: stress or fear causes an animal's muscle glycogen stores to drop, and as a result, less lactic acid is produced after the animal dies. As a result, the pH of the meat remains very high - from 6.4 to 6.8 versus the usual 5.5. Such meat retains water, turns out to be harder and darker, and deteriorates even faster. The effect is found in beef and lamb, less commonly in pork and turkey meat. DFD meat will not necessarily taste worse (although the taste may become less pronounced), but consumers often find it less attractive - which means, as in the case of “ugly” vegetables, the product may be thrown away.

Often ways of keeping animals

sounding humane in words, in practice they turn out to be no less cruel

Meat PSE, that is, pale, flabby and watery, is a problem primarily associated with pork. It is believed that genetic predisposition can play a role here, but not only. It is also a matter of short-term and severe stress immediately before slaughter - for example, due to transportation, harsh conditions of detention, rough handling and inhuman stunning. In this case, after slaughter, there is a rapid breakdown of glycogen in the muscles of the animal, due to which the meat becomes pale, with a sour taste - the pH of the meat drops sharply immediately after slaughter. PSE meat is very difficult to use, although it can be used, for example, for the production of raw smoked sausages.

It is logical that the first recommendation, which should prevent the appearance of inadequate quality meat, is to change the conditions for keeping livestock, especially immediately before slaughter. For example, breeders can make sure that different species are kept in different places, so that the animals are kept in a cool enough place and not in appallingly cramped conditions. The UN recommends giving them a day of rest and peace before slaughter to replenish muscle glycogen stores.Pigs are considered the only exception here - they do not need a rest period, but transportation should still be as humane and calm as possible. For the same purpose, stunning is also used immediately before slaughter, so that the animal stops feeling pain. Oddly enough, it can be used even in situations where it would seem to have no place - for example, in the production of halal meat, where the animal must die instantly, from one blow.

Of course, to say that the meat and poultry industry has become more humane is a big assumption. Often, the methods of keeping animals, which sound humane in words, in practice turn out to be no less cruel - for example, if birds are kept without cages, this does not mean that they will have enough space and freedom. Nevertheless, the conversation about humanizing the process is long overdue - even if it starts with thinking about the quality of the product.

PHOTOS: hallmark

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