Vaccination improves animal welfare and environmental protection in meat production

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Daniel Mörlein Photo: University of Göttingen
Daniel Mörlein Photo: University of Göttingen
Researchers have studied immunocastration in pigs and make recommendation

Most male piglets intended for fattening are surgically castrated. Without this procedure, the meat can develop an unpleasant odor and is then hardly marketable. A possible alternative is immunocastration. This involves administering a vaccine to the animals that temporarily suppresses the production of sex hormones. In the project -Field Study on Vaccination against Boar Odor (FINGER)- researchers from the Universities of Göttingen and Kiel and the Max Rubner Institute in Kulmbach compared, among other things, the environmental balances of immunocastrated and surgically castrated pigs and uncastrated boars, evaluated animal health and product quality, and reviewed commercial value. They concluded that immunocastration has no relevant disadvantages for product quality and ensures more animal and environmental protection in meat production. At the end of the project, the results were presented and discussed in Kiel in the presence of representatives from agriculture, meat processing and the food trade.

In the joint -Kiel Declaration-, key industry stakeholders recognize the results of the project, in particular the scientifically confirmed equivalence of meat and fat quality of immunocastrated male pigs compared to female pigs and the resulting suitability of their carcasses for further processing. -We are proud to contribute with our research to the improvement of animal welfare and environmental protection-, explains Daniel Mörlein from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Göttingen. -Our project provides facts to objectify the often emotional discussion surrounding meat production practices.

The researchers from Göttingen conducted chemical-physical and sensory tests to assess the quality of the meat and fat and had people test various meat products. -The results show that immunocastration does not reduce the quality of the products," says Mörlein. -In view of the advantages in terms of animal welfare and environmental balance, immunocastration can therefore be recommended as an alternative to surgical castration.

Although vaccination with the Improvac vaccine has been used worldwide for more than 20 years and a large number of scientific publications are available, practical experience in Germany is very limited. To date, there is a lack of practical studies examining the possible consequences of immunocastration on extensive data with different pig breeds, feeding techniques and feed rations. The same applies to classification and accounting systems. Because of this uncertainty, vaccination has not yet gained market relevance in Germany.

The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture as part of the federal livestock program.

Daniel Mörlein

Georg-August University Göttingen

Department of Farm Animal Science

Department of Product Quality of Animal Products

Kellnerweg 6, 37077 Göttingen