They seek to evaluate the relationship between sustainability, animal welfare and meat quality

Can management improvement measures applied to pig and chicken farming translate into improved meat quality for human consumption? This is the question that the European mEATquality project is trying to resolve, in which 17 institutions and entities from 7 European countries, including Spain, through the University of Córdoba, are involved.

The project analyzes different types of pig and chicken farms both intensive and extensive, focusing on the modification of the welfare conditions of the animals, the type of feeding, as well as its sustainability. The challenge is to translate the results of the research into objective values ​​that can be measured and predicted. In short, to create an information platform with measurable parameters that allow, on the one hand, to evaluate the quality of the product and, on the other, the sustainability of the production systems from an economic and environmental point of view.

The participation of the UCO in the mEATquiality project relies on the work of the researchers Cipriano Díaz, Santos Sanz, Carolina Reyes and Pablo Rodríguez, coordinated by Vicente Rodríguez Estévez. The work of this team, which began last October, consists, as a starting point, in the selection of 20 Spanish pig farms, as diverse as possible in terms of production system. Once chosen, the mission will be perform tests on animals by modifying their diet as well as managing their welfarethat is, to introduce more or less space, open-air outlets for recreation or provide them with the possibility of having water or mud baths, among other environmental enrichments.

In addition, this Cordovan team will develop the methodology for the life cycle analysis of all the farms participating in the project, both for pigs and chickens. To do this, it has previous experience of work carried out in the dehesa with extensive and ecological livestock. This analysis, explains Vicente Rodríguez, consists of “a methodology for calculating the environmental impact and carbon footprint of a product in all the phases involved in its production, both upstream of the farm and downstream of it” . In other words, from how the construction material of the farm influences the production of the feed consumed by the animals, the carbon footprint of the transport of the food, that of the manufacture of fertilizers for the crops, among other factors, and the corresponding environmental impacts. It is, therefore, to assess the environmental impact before and after the chain of pig farming on a farm. The idea is to examine the environmental sustainability of this entire complex system.

In addition, the UCO team has been entrusted with the design of a mobile application to quickly calculate the sustainability of a farm with the introduction of the main parameters. The objective is that with a simple tool, with a “user calculator”, any person in charge of a farm can make an evaluation of its sustainability, just by answering a series of questions, Rodríguez points out.

The participation of the UCO in the mEATquality project has provided this group of researchers with a great opportunity to come into contact with other leading institutions and research centers in Europe, including Wagenigem University (The Netherlands), which coordinates the entire draft.

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