Received: January 14, 2016; Revised: February 12, 2016. Accepted: September 5, 2016. Published online September 9, 2016.
The current review seeks to highlight the concerns that have been raised on preslaughter stress, contributing factors and its consequent effects on cattle behavioural responses and the quality of beef; inter-linking the activities involved from birth to slaughter. Such information is crucial in light of the consumer concerns on overall animal welfare, quality of meat and food security. Slaughter animals are exposed to different conditions during production and transportation to abattoirs on a daily basis. However; the majority of studies that have been done previously singled out different environments in the meat production chain, while conclusions have been made that the welfare of slaughter animals and the quality of meat harvested from them is dependent on the whole chain. Behaviour is a critical component used to evaluate the animals’ wellbeing and it has been reported to have an effect on product quality. Apart from the influence of on-farm, transportation and abattoir conditions, the genetic background of the animal also affects how it perceives and responds to certain encounters. Stress activates the animals’ hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal activity, triggering release of various stress hormones such as catecholamines and cortisol, thus glycogen depletion prior slaughter, elevated ultimate pH and poor muscle-meat conversion. Pre-slaughter stress sometimes results to cattle attaining bruises, resulting to the affected parts of the carcass being trimmed and condemned for human consumption, downgrading of the carcass and thus profit losses.
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