Quality Notes

The Meishan pig breed has many noteable features, including a very ugly appearance with copious folds in the skin. Genes from the Meishan are included in modern pig hybrids because of very high reproductive performance, including the production of large litters. Meishan males become sexually active at a young age, the downside of which is high levels of boar taint compounds (androstenone and skatole) causing boar taint to be easily detected in the pork.

Another feature that causes the breed to have a low meat value is that the carcase is very fat probably because genetic selection for leaner carcases has not been so intense as in UK. In a comparative study, Pietrain cross pigs had 61% lean in the side against 53% in Meishan crosses. However, a surprising finding was that the lean meat was distributed very evenly between the different joints of the carcase. All the pigs had the same percentage of lean in the shoulder (30%) and the loin (22%). The biggest difference was in the leg, where Pietrains had 33.8% of their lean against 32.8% in the Meishan. These results are typical of other comparisons between breeds with 'good' conformation, such as Pietrain pigs or Belgian Blue cattle and those with 'poor' conformation, such as Meishan pigs or Holstein cattle. The difference in shape does not mean that there is more muscle in valuable cuts such as the loin or leg and less in lower value cuts such as the shoulder. The major difference is in the shape of cuts, with Pietrains having much 'blockier' leg and loin muscles, giving these cuts a more 'meaty' appearance.

So the Meishan breed is useful for some aspects of pig production but, because of boar taint and fatness, breeding companies have to beware of overdoing the Meishan genes.


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