Pork quality on the rise in Manitoba

Judges were glad to note improvement in key quality areas during the pork quality competition at the Brandon Hog and Livestock Show


By Alexis Stockford, Manitoba Co-operator (Canada)

January 13, 2020


The pork at Hog Days 2019 earned a “much improved” status, and judge Bob McKay couldn’t be happier.


McKay praised entrants to this year’s pork quality competition, having noted low scores in several categories during the previous show two years ago.


“I’m happy to see the improvement, because if we had gone the reverse and gone downhill again, that would have been a bad thing,” he said.


Why it matters: Entrants had some gaps to fill the last time the Brandon Hog and Livestock Show pork quality competition hit the Keystone Centre in 2017, but improvement in colour and marbling earned kudos from the judges this year.


McKay noted major improvements in loin premium points, colour points and colour value compared to 2017. McKay raised the warning flag on colour two years ago after noting that average scores were “borderline PSE.”


The acronym, standing for “pale, soft and exudative,” indicates low-quality pork considered visually unappealing to the consumer.


Colour points jumped from an average 1.3 out of 10 in 2017 to 4.2 out of 10 this year, while colour value, as measured by a standard colour meter, dropped from 51.66 to 47.63.


The improvement brought entrants back into the normal range for export meat, according to McKay.


“Which is good,” he said, “and marbling is up, which is also important. Now, producers will say, ‘We don’t get paid for colour; we don’t get paid for marbling, so why should we give a darn?’ We export most of our pork and a lot of the countries that we ship the pork to, they look at colour; they look at marbling, and if they don’t buy it, we don’t have an industry and nobody has a job, so it’s important to look at this stuff. It’s important to focus on quality.”


McKay also noted slight improvement in carcass index and carcass index points (up from 9.9 out of 13 to an even 10), belly points (up to 9.8 out of 15 compared to 9.3 two years ago) and marbling (1.8 out of 10 compared to 1.5 in 2017).


Two years ago, McKay urged producers to take a hard look at their genetics in order to improve pork quality. He suggested that bottom competitors look at those who scored better and source breeding stock from the same place as those better-ranked competitors.


There is still room for improvement, McKay said. While loin premiums improved from 3.6 to 4.9 out of 10, those scores still come in at less than half the potential score. Similarly, while colour is no longer critically low, point scores also averaged below five out of 10 and could improve, he noted.


“This is an ongoing process. It’s not going to be cured overnight,” he said. “It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication and you keep plodding along.”


Record entries ...


The winner’s circle ...


Giving back ...