The benefits of using AA and a low-protein diet to reduce the environmental burden of pig production are evident. However, this strategy may affect muscle proteolytic activity and a certain level of proteolytic activity is required in order to develop the characteristic sensory traits of a dry-cured ham, problems associated with extensive proteolysis can be encountered. The influence of dietary regimen on muscle proteolytic enzymes has been scarcely studied. The objective of the present work was to evaluate if heavy pig low-protein diets balanced for amino acid (AA) profile affect the quality characteristics of dry cured hams. To the aim, 40 hams obtained by Italian Duroc × Italian Large White pigs fed three different dietary crude protein and indispensable AA levels were compared with those obtained by a conventional Parma ham Protected Designation of Origin diet (C).
No physico-chemical (aw, pH), chemical (gross composition, NaCl, lipid peroxidation, non-protein nitrogen, total volatile bases) or sensory characteristics of hams were systematically affected by the administered diet, animal sex or their interaction with the exception of total and subcutaneous fat (the latter measured by an image analysis procedure). Considering gilts, low-protein diets resulted in samples with higher fat content and subcutaneous fat thickness with respect to hams obtained with C diet.
In conclusion, low protein diets in the finishing phase of pig breeding could reduce the environmental impact due to nitrogen excretion without significantly affecting ham quality.
Grassi, S., Casiraghi, E., Benedetti, S., and Alamprese, C. (2017). Effect of low-protein diets in heavy pigs on dry-cured ham quality characteristics. Meat Science, 131, 152-157. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meatsci.2017.05.015