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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Researchers Find Pork Molecule Boosts Meat Quality

Pork production represents almost 30% of agricultural animal production in Canada, with exports worth more than $3.8 billion in 2016. To help increase profitability for the Canadian pork sector and maintain its reputation for supplying safe and nutritious food, researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) looked at a naturally occurring molecule in pork to see if it could improve meat quality.

In their study, researchers from AAFC's Sherbrooke and Saint-Hyacinthe Research and Development Centres examined the effect that carnosine, a molecule found in pork, as well as in other meat and fish, has on pork traits such as colour, water-holding capacity and texture of the meat.

They found that pigs with higher carnosine levels in their muscles produced higher quality meat that retained more moisture and had a more attractive colour than meats with lower carnosine content - both qualities that appeal to consumers.

In addition, researchers identified a specific gene sequence in pigs that appears to be associated with controlling the carnosine levels in their muscles. This new genetic information could be used by breeders to develop pigs with improved muscle carnosine level.

While this research did not focus on the health effects of carnosine in consumers, other studies have documented many possible roles of carnosine in nutrition and health, in particular, it’s role with respect to age-related conditions, such as diabetes and its cardiovascular complications, and neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s, to name a few.

This growing body of knowledge will not only help pig farmers produce higher quality pork but also provide consumers with more knowledge about the potential health benefits of carnosine that meat contains.

For more information:

Sherbrooke Research and Development Centre: Marie-France Palin, Ph. D., Joël D'Astous-Pagé, Danièle Beaudry, Steve Méthot

Saint-Hyacinthe Research and Development Centre: Claude Gariépy, Ph. D., Simon Cliché

External partners: Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement, Canada Pork International, Canadian Pork Council, Quebec Pork Development Centre, University of Alberta, Swine Innovation Porc Gariépy, C., Sullivan, B. (2017). Increasing Canadian pork consumption, market share and competitiveness through enhanced nutritional values and overall quality with a functional molecule in pork meat (PDF). Swine Innovation Porc.

D'Astous-Pagé, J., Gariépy, C., Blouin, R., Cliche, S., Sullivan, B., Fortin, F. and Palin, M.F. (2017) Carnosine content in the porcine longissimus thoracis muscle and its association with meat quality attributes and carnosine-related gene expression. Meat Sci. 124:84-94.

D'Astous-Pagé, J., Gariépy, C., Blouin, R., Cliche, S., Méthot, S., Sullivan, B., Fortin, F. and Palin, M.F. (2017) Identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms in carnosine-related genes and effects of genotypes on pork meat quality attributes. Meat Sci. 134:54-60.

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