Recently, a new technology is being developed in Norsvin’s meat quality platform, using CT images for calibration of intramuscular fat (IMF) in live pigs.
The amount of IMF is an important property for juicy and tasty pork. Norsvin Duroc is known for a high level of IMF. Figure 1 shows the development of IMF in Norsvin Duroc from 1996 to 2012. We are now at the same level of IMF in this breed as the level we had in the early 2000s, and about 0.5 percentage points below the level we had in the early 90s. This is fantastic in light of the tremendous development in slaughter pig efficiency and lean meat growth during the same period. In the period from 1998 to 2012, the lean meat percentage has increased with 6 units (phenotypic data from the breeding program).
Figure 1 - Development of IMF in Norsvin Duroc from 1996 to 2012. Light blue indicates castrates and blue indicates females,
slaughter weight is around 100 kg.
Phenotyping of IMF
Norsvin Duroc was analyzed with chemical IMF methods from 1995 to 2005, and with NIR (Near-infrared spectroscopy) from 2005 onwards. Recently, a new technology to predict IMF is being developed in Norsvin’s meat quality platform, and this new method will be developed with NIR-predicted IMF as a reference method.
High-tech phenotyping: IMF from CT images
Currently, CT images are collected at the boar test station and these are suitable for calibration of IMF in live pigs. This method has lower accuracy than the NIR-predicted IMF. Still, an IMF value on the selection candidates is extremely valuable in a selection program, since NIR-predicted IMF is only available for slaughtered relatives of the selection candidates. Pigs are routinely sampled using CT at Norsvin, so there is a great potential to use image analysis and multivariate calibration to develop new phenotypes for IMF.Preliminary analysis shows that this will work very well, and we hope to have new phenotypes for CT-predicted IMF implemented in breeding program already in 2013. This high-tech phenotyping makes it possible to retain good marbling at the same time as lean meat growth is highly increased.
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Dr. Eli Gjerlaug Enger