Slaughtering Age Effect on Carcass Traits and Meat Quality of Italian Heavy Draught Horse Foals

  • De Palo, P. (Department of Veterinary Medicine, S.P. per Casamassima) ;
  • Maggiolino, A. (Department of Veterinary Medicine, S.P. per Casamassima) ;
  • Centoducati, P. (Department of Veterinary Medicine, S.P. per Casamassima) ;
  • Tateo, A. (Department of Veterinary Medicine, S.P. per Casamassima)
  • Received : 2013.03.27
  • Accepted : 2013.04.29
  • Published : 2013.11.01


The present work describes the effect of slaughtering age on horse carcass traits and on meat quality. Eighteen male Italian heavy draught horse (IHDH) breed foals were employed in the study. Soon after foaling they were randomly subdivided in 3 groups according to 3 age at slaughtering classes: 6 months old, 11 months old and 18 months old. Live weight, hot carcass weight and dressing percentage of each animal were recorded. After slaughtering, meat samples were collected from Longissimus Dorsi muscle between 13th and 18th thoracic vertebra of each animal and then analyzed. The right half carcass of each animal was then divided in cuts. Each one was subdivided into lean, fat and bones. Then, the classification of the lean meat in first and second quality cuts was performed according to the butchers' customs. Older animals were characterized by a lower incidence of first quality cuts (p<0.01) on carcass. Younger animals showed greater content in protein (p<0.01). Fatty acid profile showed an increasing trend of PUFA connected to the increasing of slaughtering age (p<0.05). The unsaturation index of intramuscular fatty acids was not affected by slaughtering age, confirming that horse meat, if compared to beef, is more suitable from a nutritional point of view. Season influenced reproduction, birth as well as production aspects of this species. The different slaughtering age could represent the way to produce meat of IHDH foals during the entire year without change in the qualitative standard expected by consumers.


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