D’Alessio, R. M., McAloon, C. G., Boyle, L. A. et al. 2023. Comparison between two scoring methods to assess tail damage of docked pig carcasses during postmortem inspection in Ireland. Veterinary Record Open 10(2), e66.

Background Tail inspection in the abattoir is a tool to help determine the welfare status of pigs. However, methodologies vary widely. Moreover, meat inspection is moving from palpation and incision towards visual-only (VIS) examination. This study investigated whether a VIS examination was sufficient to detect tail damage compared to handling (HAND), which ensures examination of all aspects of the tail. Method The severity of tail skin damage (0 [undamaged] – 4 [partial/full loss of tail]) and presence/absence of bruises was scored using both methods after scalding/dehairing of 5498 pig carcasses. Results There was a good relationship between methods when evaluating tail skin damage (sensitivity, 82.48%; specificity, 99.98%; accuracy, 98.98%; correlation ρ = 0.84). The results were similar for the presence of bruises (sensitivity, 74.98%; specificity, 99.09%; accuracy, 89.94%; correlation ρ = 0.79). However, the percentage of tails classified as undamaged was higher using VIS (69.9%) than HAND (63.55%) examination. Conversely, VIS detected fewer mild lesions (score 1 – 13.64%; score 2 – 11.73%) than HAND (score 1 – 15.21%; score 2 – 15.53%). A higher percentage of bruises was detected using HAND than VIS (37.96% vs. 29.03%). Conclusions Visual evaluation is a valid alternative to handling evaluation of carcass tail damage and bruising.

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