A small dose of the feed additive ractopamine can boost pork production, without changing the look or taste of the meat, animal scientists in Brazil have claimed.
In the latest issue of the Journal of Animal Science, researchers reported that a 5 mg/kg dose of ractopamine increased muscle mass and feed efficiency, and had no noticeable effect on pork marbling, fat content, toughness or colour. The researchers came to this conclusion by testing pork from 340 pigs raised under commercial conditions.
“We found that if [pork producers] use 5 mg/kg of ractopamine in the finishing diet of swine that should result in no detrimental effects on fresh pork quality and cooked pork palatability,” said Natália Bortoleto Athayde, an animal scientist at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil.
Ractopamine is a common feed additive in Brazilian and US pork production. The additive increases the size of muscle fibres by increasing protein synthesis in muscle cells. Many pork producers use ractopamine because it allows pigs to grow larger with less feed.
“Pork is the most animal protein consumed in the world, and Brazil is currently the fourth largest producer of this meat,” said Athayde. “We export about 15% of pork we produce and we believe it is extremely important to know the quality of the meat that we offer to the world.”
Athayde recommends further studies of how ractopamine affects animal behaviour, consumer health and the environment.