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Nutrition and fat quality in the heavy pig

Nutrition and fat quality in the heavy pig

Italian Journal of Food Science 6(2): 141-155

The fatty acid composition of depot fats is important both from a nutritional and technological point of view. Unfortunately these two requirements oppose one another. An increased concentration of unsaturated fatty acids is considered beneficial for human nutrition, but it causes a number of problems for curing and storing. The physical features and the fatty acid content of the adipose tissue of the pig are very important in determining the quality of the final product. This is especially true in the case of the most important product of the Italian pig meat industry, the seasoned raw ham. Seasoned raw ham is made from the upper hind leg of the pig. In order to produce a high quality product the fresh hind legs should be covered with a layer of fat of reasonable thickness. The quality (of the fatty acid composition) of the subcutaneous fat layer is also of great importance as the fat should not be subject to any deteriorations such as rancidity. Such alterations can jeopardise the eating quality of the ham. The fatty acid composition of depot fats and consequently their physical and chemical characteristics may be modified, within certain limits, by the diet fed to the animal. Therefore, manipulation of the characteristics of pig adipose tissue via the diet, and in particular through the feeding of specific lipids is of great interest. Stearic acid is no longer considered unfavourable by experts in human nutrition (it may easily be desaturated to oleic acid) and may improve the firmness and the oxidative stability of adipose depots. Further research is required to evaluate the use of this fatty acid to satisfy both the nutritional (human) and technological requirements necessary for the processing of seasoned raw ham.

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