Alternative housing systems for pigs: Influences on growth, composition, and pork quality

J. G. Gentry, J. J. McGlone, J. R. Blanton, M. F. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Effects of pig birth (first 3-wk period) and rearing environments on growth and muscle quality characteristics of loins were evaluated in three experiments over seasons in west Texas and central Missouri. Housing systems included indoor slatted-floor buildings, indoor deep-bedded buildings, outdoor housing on dirt, and outdoor housing on alfalfa pasture. Experiments were conducted during the growing/finishing phases and pigs were slaughtered at the same age. Loins were collected, vacuum-packaged, and stored for 14 d at 2°C. Pigs born and finished in an outdoor environment during the summer months (Exp. 1) had a greater ADG (0.92 vs 0.82 ± 0.06 kg/d, P < 0.05) and had heavier carcass weights (87.9 vs 78.4 ± 2.4 kg, P < 0.05) than pigs born and finished in an indoor environment with a slatted-floor finishing building. Carcasses from the outdoor-reared group measured a larger (P < 0.05) loineye area and were fatter (P < 0.01) at the first rib, last rib, and last lumbar vertebra measurements than carcasses from the indoor-reared group. Loin chops from outdoor-reared pigs had darker color scores in the retail display case throughout the 4-d period, measured lower L* values on d 1, and had more discoloration and browning on d 4 than loin chops from the indoor-reared group. During the winter months (Exp. 2), no difference was detected in ADG, carcass measurements, sensory characteristics, or shear force values from indoor-born pigs placed in either an outdoor or indoor finishing environment. Pigs finished on deep bedding (Exp. 3) had heavier carcass weights and more backfat (P < 0.01) than pigs finished on slats, but no differences were detected in sensory panel or shear force results. Overall, carcass measurements, pH, drip loss, sensory panel, and shear force values were similar among the groups finished in different housing systems. Outdoor or deep-bedded systems may increase growth rates of pigs if suitable land area and resources are available, but pork quality of loins will be similar for pigs finished in either conventional or alternative systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1781-1790
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2002


  • Environment
  • Housing
  • Pigs
  • Pork Quality


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