Bringing premium meat to Canadian domestic and export markets

October 11, 2018

Is fat the new lean? Higher pork marbling standards could be on the horizon, leading to a premium product for producers.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) research scientist Dr. Jon Meadus is working on producing pigs that have more intramuscular fat (IMF), also known as marbling fat, to create moister, tastier pork for consumers that can be sold for top dollar.

According to Meadus, marbling gives pork great texture and flavour. He says well-marbled pork is particularly good for barbecuing—and there is a market for marbled meat as well as for the lean pork that is most commonly sold today.

“The best pigs have around 3% to 7% percent IMF,” says Meadus. "The 7% value would be similar to a AA cut of beef. Meat with more marbling is more tender and not so easily dried out. It's a way to ensure the consumer gets a good cut of meat with excellent flavour and texture."

Meadus is looking to increase marbling fat in pigs through breeding and diet. Along with trying corn feed instead of barley and experimenting with vitamin A levels in the pigs' nutrition, his work includes isolating DNA from a variety of boar breeds to identify the genes that produce the most marbling.

While he is still in the early stages, Meadus says the Duroc and Berkshire breeds seem to routinely produce good marbling.

Currently, most of the high-IMF pork that Canada produces is sold to foreign markets. But Meadus says once he zeroes in on the best marbling genes and identifies them to breeders, the industry will be able to produce more marbled pork—not only for exports, but for Canadians in search of premium meat.

"It's a kind of quality assurance," Meadus says. "The idea is for Canadian farmers to continue to be top-quality exporters of marbled meat while also bringing that same calibre to products at home."


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