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Nutritional Value of Organic Meat and Potential Human Health Response


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The nutritional quality of organically produced meat is affected by organic diet and breeding conditions. A number of studies confirm the lower total fat content of organic farm meat and this means a decreased calorific value. Carcasses from organically reared animals have usually higher content of intramuscular fat, positively affecting sensory properties. Moreover, the fatty acids' profile in organic meat is considered to be more beneficial to human health. Organic meat contains more favourable proportions of unsaturated fatty acids, including n-3 acids, and decreased level of saturated ones. The reason for this is a longer period of pasturage applied to organically reared animals. Therefore, consumption of organic meat can impose anti-cancer effects, stimulate the immune system and prevent coronary heart diseases.
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14 Nutritional Value of Organic Meat and
Potential Human Health Response
Ewa Rembiałkowska and Maciej Badowski
Abstract: The nutritional quality of organically produced meat is affected by organic diet and
breeding conditions. A number of studies confirm the lower total fat content of organic farm meat
and this means a decreased calorific value. Carcasses from organically reared animals have usually
higher content of intramuscular fat, positively affecting sensory properties. Moreover, the fatty
acids’ profile in organic meat is considered to be more beneficial to human health. Organic meat
contains more favourable proportions of unsaturated fatty acids, including n-3 acids, and decreased
level of saturated ones. The reason for this is a longer period of pasturage applied to organically
reared animals. Therefore, consumption of organic meat can impose anti-cancer effects, stimulate
the immune system and prevent coronary heart diseases.
Keywords: meat quality; organic meat; organic farming; organic breeding; fatty acids; animal
nutrition; nutritional value
The global demand for organic food is systematically growing. More and more people
are becoming convinced that such food is healthier than the mass-produced food, which is
commonly available on the conventional food market (Anderson, 2000; Harper & Makatouni,
2002; Magnusson et al., 2003; Yiridoe et al., 2005). Different kinds of disease epidemics,
such as Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), have
illustrated how changes in demand for a specific raw material or even a meat product are
influenced by the sense of danger, which may be foreseen and estimated.
For a modern consumer, who has a developed organic awareness, a basic discriminant of
valuable food products is quality. This term has a complex nature and is a sum of many factors.
The first factor is public health and safety specified by hygienic and toxicological indicators
(level of environmental impurities, mycotoxins, bacteria and parasites). There are also other
factors such as sensory discriminates (taste, smell, colour and tenderness), physiological and
nutritional parameters and technological features of meat (Andersen, 2000; Cooper et al.,
2007). The meat quality is conditioned by factors such as: type of fodder for animals, breeding
system (including a physical activity), breed, age and sex of animals as well as the course
of post-slaughter activities (bleeding out, steaming and cooling of carcasses) (Troy, 1995;
Kerry et al., 2000).
Organic Meat Production and Processing, First Edition. Edited by Steven C. Ricke, Ellen J. Van Loo,
Michael G. Johnson, and Corliss A. O’Bryan.
2012 John Wiley& Sons, Inc. and the Institute of Food Technologists. Published 2012 by John Wiley &Sons, Inc.
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240 Organic Meat Production and Processing
The focus of the present chapter is the nutritional value, an important meat quality attribute.
It is a combination of separate mineral components and organic compounds, which have a
direct or indirect impact on consumer’s health – usually on a long-term basis. The nutritional
value is defined as the usefulness of products and food groups to cover the consumer’s needs
related to metabolism. The nutritional value is, therefore, a function of content, balance and
bioavailability of nutritional components. Organic raw materials include higher amounts of
bioactive substances, which are considered very desirable from the health point of view. It
also relates to meat, which is confirmed by the studies presented later in this chapter.
Meat and meat products are one of the most important protein sources of high nutritional
value, i.e. protein of favourable amino acid composition, including all essential amino acids
in appropriate proportions. With respect to different species, the protein content in muscular
tissue ranges from 15% to 20%, and in the meat exposed to heat treatment – due to a lower
content of water – it is higher per product mass. Offal has much less protein (11%–17%);
however, it is richer in vitamins and mineral components, but high content of cholesterol
reduces its use in human diet (Bartnikowska, 2005).
Amino acid composition of meat proteins is well balanced, i.e. they include all amino acids
necessary for synthesis of systemic proteins, which cannot be produced in a human organism
(essential amino acids). Only proteins of connective tissue are of a low biological value, since
they contain little tryptophan and cysteine (essential amino acids). Technological processes,
particularly thermal ones and those connected with reduction of water content in a product
(e.g. drying), may significantly reduce amino acid bioavailability, which consequently causes
a decrease in nutritional value of meat and meat products (Bartnikowska, 2005).
Protein is needed not only to restore spent cells, but to generate new cells as well.
Therefore, fast-growing organisms such as children and youth need a much higher supply
of protein of high nutritional value per body mass than adults. A diet rich in proteins is
often nutritionally needed for people affected with a variety of illnesses, for example people
suffering from maldigestion and malabsorption syndromes, inflammatory bowel disease
(large intestine), hyperthyroidism, weakened patients, mostly with cancer or those chronically
undernourished due to other reasons (Bartnikowska, 2005).
The energy value of meat and meat products depends on the content of fat and water
and the content of fat varies significantly, depending on species, section of the carcass and
type of product. Due to the high-energy value of fat, its high content in meat is considered
unfavourable from a health point of view. Therefore, most consumers – following the nutri-
tionists’ instructions – shop for the meat and the meat products of low-fat content. However,
fat is a carrier of taste and olfactory substances and its presence is recommended up to
specific limits (Pospiech et al., 2006). However, fat is also associated with the cholesterol
content. With regard to atherosclerosis prophylaxis, its level in blood serum may be taken
into consideration as a risk indicator of blood vessel and heart diseases. It is believed that
low-fat food products contain lower amounts of cholesterol.
In terms of fat content, meat from different species is characterised by high variability. This
fraction consists of approximately 95% triacylglycerols, which in turn are composed of fatty
acids with chain length and saturation levels providing a definitive nutritional value for the
animal fat. Saturated acids are regarded as a factor with a negative impact on human health,
since they contribute to the development of atherosclerosis (Pfeuffer & Schrezenmeir, 2000)
and an increase of the cholesterol level in blood, which fosters circulatory system diseases
(Haug et al., 2007). Among polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), n-3 PUFA, having the first
double bond at C-3 from the methyl end (e.g. linolenic acid 18:3), have a beneficial influence
on humans. They positively affect the nervous system function and decrease the risk of
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Nutritional Value of Organic Meat and Potential Human Health Response 241
diabetes and heart and circulatory diseases (Horrobin, 1993; Hu et al., 1999). The ratio of n-
3 acids to n-6 acids is crucial as well. If the content of the second group of PUFA n-6, having
first double bond at C-6 from methyl end (e.g. linoleic acid (LA) 18:2), is too high, the risk of
inflammatory conditions, thrombus and autoimmune symptoms increases. The composition
of fatty acids is a very important factor in contributing to nutritional value. Originally, meat
consumed by humans is naturally rich in n-3 acids, which are beneficial in terms of anti-
inflammatory properties as well as reducing the risk of heart attack (Bucher et al., 2002),
breast, prostate and colorectal cancers (Deckere, 1999; Augustsson et al., 2003). The content
of n-6 acids that increases the risk of atherosclerosis lesions and development of cancerous
lesions was lower in meat eaten originally than in currently available meat of commercial
animal breeds. In human diet, the ratio of n-6:n-3 acids amounted to approximately 1:1.
Currently, due to industrial production of animal fodders (based on numerous grains including
n-6 acids), this ratio comes to 30:1 (Berrisch-Hempen, 1995). N-6 fatty acids appear in
quantities significantly higher than n-3 acids (Enser et al., 1998), which have a negative
impact on consumers’ health status.
Among n-3 acids, alpha-linolenic acid (LNA) is of the greatest significance; however,
among n-6 acids, the highest content belongs to LA. With respect to monounsaturated acids,
the oleic acid content should also be considered since it represents one-fourth of the total
fatty acids. Oleic acid plays a protective role with respect to n-3 and n-6 acids, preventing
their oxidation as well as reducing cholesterol level and exhibits an anti-cancer effect (Ip,
1997; Kris-Etherton et al., 1999; Mensink et al., 2003).
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) belongs to the n-3 acid group and is important from dietary
viewpoint. It influences reduction of death rate of brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease (Uauy &
Dangour, 2006), supports treatment of Parkinson disease, circulatory system diseases, chronic
arthritis and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Haug et al., 2007). Eicosapen-
taenoic acid (EPA) favourably influences the circulatory system, fighting symptoms of ADHD
and has anti-inflammatory and anti-atherogenic effects (Calder, 2006). Both acids improve
the skin condition in atopic dermatitis (Boelsma et al., 2004).
A component of the fat fraction that is of particular interest is conjugated linoleic acid
(CLA). Beside milk, beef is a fundamental source of the compound isomers in the human
diet (Haug et al., 2004). The most important CLA isomer, representing approximately 90%
CLA, is cis-9trans-11 isomer since it prevents tumour development, heart disease and has a
stimulating effect on the immune system (Whigham et al., 2000). It is called rumenic acid
since the rumen is a primary origin for its synthesis from LA. Other CLA isomers (trans-7
cis-9, trans-10 cis-12 and trans-9cis-11) counteract obesity (reducing adipose tissue and
increasing muscle mass) and support diabetes treatment (Taylor & Zahradka, 2004). The
content of CLA in animal fat is influenced by many factors. The most important factors
are the type of fodder fed to the animals (Parodi, 1999), followed by seasonal fluctuations
(Parodi, 1977), endogenous synthesis from trans-vaccenic acid (TVA) (Griinari et al., 2000)
and free radical oxidation of LA during processing (Ha et al., 1989).
Meat and offal are good sources of many mineral components, such as iron (so-called
haeme iron, well-absorbable) and zinc, copper, phosphorus and sulphur. Because of the high
content of phosphorus and sulphur compounds, meat and meat products are classified as
highly acid-forming compounds, which means that in order to maintain the acid–alkaline
balance, it is necessary to consume alkaline-forming products (primarily vegetables) together
with meat products (Bartnikowska, 2005).
Meat is a very good source of B-group vitamins, but the content of the separate vitamins
significantly differs with regard to animal species, for example the highest content of thiamine
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242 Organic Meat Production and Processing
is in pork, and niacin (vitamin PP) in veal. Only animal products are the source of vitamin
B12. In the average Western diet, meat and meat products meet about 70% of the demand for
vitamin B12 and thus vegetarians who have consciously refrained from consuming animal
products are recommended to supplement their diets with vitamin B12 supplements. During
food processing, in particular thermal processes, a significant loss of B-group vitamins can
take place (Bartnikowska, 2005).
Fat-soluble vitamins (mainly A and D) are stored in internal organs of animals; therefore,
offal such as liver or kidneys are a primary source. As mentioned previously, these animal
products include a very high level of cholesterol, which reduces their use in human nutrition.
Vitamin E can also be found in meat and meat products, but its concentration is not sufficient
to protect unsaturated fatty acids against oxidation processes (Bartnikowska, 2005).
14.2 BEEF
Ruminant meat is particularly valuable, since numerous studies have shown that the ratio
of PUFA n-6:n-3 is much lower compared to other kinds of meat. In beef from organic
farms, the proportions are even more favourable. It results from a high concentration of LNA
(18:3, n-3), the high content of which can be found in grass (Wood et al., 1999, 2003).
This hypothesis has been confirmed by the results of the studies by Marmer et al. (1984)
and Matthes and Pastushenko (1999), when diets of animals were switched from a pasture
system to a grain mix. These dietary shifts caused a decrease in the content of PUFA (in
particular LNA) and consequently an increase in the ratio of fatty acids n-6:n-3. The results
of the studies by Pastushenko et al. (2000) were similar where a lower concentration of
saturated fatty acids (22.4%) had been ascertained in organic beef compared to conventional
beef sources (40.0%). In the meat of animals fed mother’s milk and subsequently pastured
and hay-fed during the winter, there was a lower content of saturated fatty acids compared to
the meat of heifers fed milk-substitute mix, fodder concentrates and small amounts of hay.
Differences in the content of n-6 and n-3 acids in both kinds of beef, reported by Pastushenko
et al. (2000) and Enser et al. (1998), are presented in Figure 14.1.
% of total fat
linolenic acid (18:3, n-3)linoleic acid (18:2, n-6)
Figure 14.1 The content of unsaturated fatty acids in organic and conventional beef (% of total fat)
et al.
, 1998; Pastushenko
et al.
, 2000).
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Nutritional Value of Organic Meat and Potential Human Health Response 243
Results of the studies by Nuernberg et al. (2002) further confirmed that animal diet
composition has the greatest impact on the proportion of fatty acids in meat. Cows grazing
in fresh grass on pasture land exhibited four times higher content of LNA (18:3), an n-3
fatty acid that is considered very beneficial to human health, while simultaneously yielding
a reduced content of oleic (18:1, n-9) and linoleic (18:2, n-6) acids when compared to the
meat of grain concentrated-fed cows.
Similar findings were demonstrated in a veal study. Miotello et al. (2009) compared
characteristics of veal from organic and conventional farms. The organic meat included
significantly lower content of ether extract (P0.001) and cholesterol (P0.05). From
nutritional viewpoint, this meat proved to be more valuable due to a higher content of
n-3 acids, reduced n-6:n-3 ratio and a higher CLA level compared to conventional veal.
Wals h e et al. (2006) compared bull meat from organic and conventional farming. Accord-
ing to their studies, organic meat samples have a considerably higher content of fatand lower
moisture content than conventional ones. However, there were no significant differences
observed between both kinds of meat in terms of the content of proteins, ash, beta-carotene,
alpha-tocopherol, retinol or the content of fatty acids. However, the conventional meat ex-
hibited a better storage quality since its samples had better colour and lipid stability during
storage compared to the organic meat samples. It is probably the result of the higher fat
content in organic bull meat, which caused more intensive oxidation of the unsaturated fatty
acids in the fat of these samples (Walshe et al., 2006). This was confirmed by a high content
of the substances reacting with thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) found in
organic meat.
A lower lipid stability of such meat may also be characterised by a higher content of
metal ions (in particular total and haeme iron), which are catalysts of peroxidation pro-
cesses (Fukozawa & Fuji, 1992). The physical activity of an organism increases the level of
haeme iron (Hoffmann, 1995), particularly in muscles, which undergo the greatest oxidation
(Petersen et al., 1997). Due to an obligatory access to outdoor runs, animals from organic
farming are involved in more physical activities than intensive farming stock; therefore, this
conclusion may be warranted (Braghieri & Napolitano, 2009).
Mutton yields similar proportions of fatty acids as beef. Fisher et al. (2000) stated that both
in organic and conventional farming, slaughter yields can be similar but organic mutton
yields more favourable quality properties. Three sheep breeds were compared: (1) Welsh
Mountain, (2) Soay and (3) Suffolk. It was demonstrated that appropriate breed selection
was also responsible for gaining desirable yield.
Angood et al. (2008) compared the composition of fatty acids’ pool and the nutritional
quality of organic and conventional lamb products, offered on the British market. The study
presented significant differences, i.e. organic meat had a higher content of n-3 PUFA and
displayed a better nutritional quality in terms of juiciness, tastiness and general acceptability
compared to the conventional lamb available on the market. The greater juiciness resulted
from a higher content of intramuscular fat in the organic lamb chops. The greater tastiness,
preferred by the British consumers, was attributed to the difference in the fatty acids compo-
sition, in particular a higher content of linolenic acid (18:3) and total content of n-3 acids in
organic meat chops (as a result of pasture feeding). Conventional meat contained more LA
(18:2, n-6), which probably resulted from predominant dietary concentrate in the animal diet.
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244 Organic Meat Production and Processing
0.09 0.16 0.230.34
% of total fat
14:1, n-618:3, n-320:5, n-322:6, n-3total n-3total n-6
Figure 14.2 Some fatty acids in intramuscular fat in longissimus dorsi muscle (% of total fat). (After
et al
., 1999.)
Both kinds of meat, however, exhibited a favourable proportion of n-6:n-3 acids’ quantity
(Angood et al., 2008).
Feeding lambs with fresh green fodder has a considerable impact on the quality of
their meat, which was confirmed by the studies by Enser et al. (1998). The large amount
of dietary fibre in the fodder and the considerable consumption of fresh grass led to a
beneficial composition of fatty acids as well as the content of intramuscular and abdominal
fat. According to Oksbjerg et al. (2005), the influence on the proportions of fatty acids may
be dependent on dietary fibre supply as well as restrictively defined animal feeding, which
consequently resulted in a lower total mass. In fact, lean meat possesses greater proportions
of phospholipids and is richer in PUFA, in particular C20 and C22 acids (Elmore et al.,
1999). Due to pasture feeding, organic lamb meat showed a higher content of CLA, an
indirect product of biohydrogenation in rumen, which is considered very beneficial to human
health (Pariza et al., 2001).
Comparative studies of mutton have also been conducted in Italy. Morbidini et al. (1999)
analysed the quality of carcasses and intramuscular fat of sheep meat from a certified organic
farm, comparing the results with those obtained in a control group. Conventional sheep
meat was characteristic of a greater energetic value due to a higher fat content. However,
a composition of intramuscular fat turned out to be more favourable in organic sheep meat
(see Figure 14.2). Saturated fatty acids predominated in meat samples of both groups, but
the content of n-3 and n-6 acids – the most valuable from a health viewpoint – was higher in
organic meat.
14.4 PORK
Recently, the interest in pork meat from organic farms has been growing (Hamm & Gronefeld,
2004). However, there has been considerable discrepancy regarding the quality of the meat
obtained due to the differentiation of fodders used within organic system, species change-
ability and slaughter methods (Rembiałkowska & Wi´
sniewska, 2010). In conjunction with
these variables, some efforts to define optimal breeding conditions have been undertaken
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Nutritional Value of Organic Meat and Potential Human Health Response 245
(under the guidelines by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) in
an effort to allow an increase in yield as well as maintaining a high meat quality (Guy &
Edwards, 2002).
An organoleptic assessment of pork – similarly to beef and mutton – is largely influenced
by the content of intramuscular fat (Fernandez et al., 1999). However, the results of studies
comparing swine carcasses from organic and conventional farms are not unambiguous.
Hansen et al. (2006) showed that animals from both systems reached a similar mass, yielded
a similar fat-free body mass and content of intramuscular fat. Yet, Sundrum et al. (2000,
2003) and Millet et al. (2004) obtained different results, with marbling level of organic meat
being higher. However, drawing definitive conclusions is hindered by animals being fed
differently in these studies. The experiment conducted by Hansen et al. (2006) was based on
animals receiving organic fodder, including 70% cereal grain concentrates and 30% silage.
In the experiments by Sundrum et al. (2000, 2003) and Millet et al. (2004), diet of animals
from organic farms was more diverse, since they contained grains of wheat and barley and
seeds of broad bean, pea and lupine while the proportion of concentrates in fodder was less.
Consequently, it was hypothesised that dietary composition was responsible for the differing
contents of intramuscular fat of the pork meat samples. However, the studies by Olsson et al.
(2003) revealed a lower content of intramuscular fat and lower fat-free body mass in the
organically raised animals.
According to the results of the previous studies, organic pork is less tender than pork meat
from conventional sources (Danielsen et al., 1999). This may be the result of lower daily
mass gains of pigs from organic farming. Therefore, while slaughtering, their meat presents
a decreased proteolytic potential – its low value is considered to be the cause of decreased
tenderness (Sather et al., 1997).
Nevertheless, these studies unequivocally indicate an advantage for organic pork in terms
of a high level of PUFA and a lower content of saturated fatty acids (Hansen et al., 2000;
Nilzen et al., 2001). These differences have impact on reduced processing quality of organic
meat, owing to increased lipid oxidation and content of soft fat. The results from analysis
of the content of TBARS reveal a poorer storage quality of organic meat (Lopez-Bote et al.,
1998; Warnants et al., 1999; Nilzen et al., 2001).
A concept of higher fat quality in organic pork is also confirmed by the studies carried out
by Kim et al. (2009) on Korean native black pigs. A level of saturated and monounsaturated
fatty acids, less beneficial to health, turned out to be higher in conventional meat, whereas
the content of valuable n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated acids was considerably higher in organic
meat (see Figure 14.3). The proportion n-6:n-3 was lowered in organic pork by more than
half (see Figure 14.4).
In addition, the chemical composition of the pork of outdoor run animals (with pasture
access) was compared with the meat of pigs raised only in farm buildings (Hansen et al.,
2000; Nilzen et al., 2001). In the first group animals’ meat, a higher concentration of vitamin
E and alpha-tocopherol – antioxidant compounds – was detected. However, their level was
not high enough to balance a great susceptibility of organic meat to lipid oxidation, resulting
from a high content of PUFA.
Pork carcasses from organic farms also have a higher fat-free body mass (Sundrum
& Acosta, 2003; Bee et al., 2004), which is why they have a higher estimated wholesale
pricing – compared to conventional carcasses; they exhibit a higher mass of loin and gammon
(Sundrum & Acosta, 2003). It is believed that appropriate selection of animal breeds and
adaptation to local conditions should sort out the problem of lower daily mass gains, such as
is the case with organic swine.
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246 Organic Meat Production and Processing
62.84 65.39
% of total fat
Figure 14.3 Comparison of fatty acid composition (%) of longissimus muscle between conventional (
30) and organic (
=30) pork from Korean black pigs. (After Kim
et al
., 2009.) SFA, saturated fatty acids;
UFA, unsaturated fatty acids; MUFA, monounsaturated fatty acids; PUFA, polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Similar results were obtained by Hogberg et al. (2002), who detected a higher content
of vitamin E in organic pork, resulting from the higher vitamin content in organic fodder.
Significant differences in content of other vitamins between organic and conventional pork
were not reported.
An organic breeding system also promotes greater quantity of protein in meat and reduced
water/protein index (Dworschak et al., 1995; Entf¨
alt et al., 1997; Olsson et al., 2003). Such
animal farming also results in higher content of ash and mineral components, such as zinc,
copper and iron (Dworschak et al., 1995; Olsson et al., 2003). The ability of binding metal
ions by protein particles is most likely higher in muscle cells of more physically active
0.66 0.39 1.23 1.30
% of total fat
Figure 14.4 Comparison of fatty acid profile of M. longissimus muscle between conventional (
and organic (
=30) pork from Korean black pigs. (After Kim
et al
., 2009.) PUFA, polyunsaturated fatty
acids; MUFA, monounsaturated fatty acids; SFA, saturated fatty acids.
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Nutritional Value of Organic Meat and Potential Human Health Response 247
swine, raised with access to an outdoor run. Moreover, higher content of iron may be
correlated with greater myoglobin level, which is observed in animals raised in conditions
providing opportunities for the animals to participate in recreational activities (Shorthose &
Harris, 1991).
Castellini et al. (2002) and Combes et al. (2003) analysed quality parameters of poultry from
organic and conventional farms. Broilers raised under these different conditions were the
focus of their studies. In organic farming, broilers had access to a specific run area, whereas
in conventional system they were raised in cages where space per one broiler was very
limited. Fodder for organic chickens consisted of organic raw materials, while traditional
farm fodder was used in conventional farming. The breast and thigh meat were taken as the
experimental samples. Smaller mass gains and lower post-slaughter mass were observed with
respect to organic chickens. However, they were approximately two to three times less fatty
in abdominal and breast parts; the percentage fat content of meat in breast and thigh parts
was higher as well. The fat content in the thigh part was 1.8 times lower in the organic birds.
The meat included a higher level of iron compared to conventional ones. In the researchers’
opinion, a lower total body mass and smaller mass gains of organic chickens were caused by
their greater physical activity (confirmed by the behavioural observations) and larger energy
expenditures related to thermoregulation. Greater physical activity of the organic chickens
was also responsible for a lower content of abdominal adipose tissue and better developed
breast and thigh muscles, which would increase the commercial value of the meat (Lei &
Van Beek, 1997; Lewis et al., 1997). A higher level of iron was most likely conditioned by
greater physical activity, since oxidation of muscle tissue raises the level of haeme iron in
the organism (Hoffmann, 1995).
Analyses of chemical composition of poultry from both production systems illustrated a
greater content of saturated and PUFA as well as a lower content of monounsaturated fatty
acids in organic meat. Significant differences were found especially in the level of n-3 acids,
including DHA, which was twofold greater than in conventional meat (Figure 14.5). Most
likely, it was caused by the grass present in the animals’ diet.
Among unfavourable properties of organic poultry, it should also be mentioned that there
was an increased TBARS concentration, which indicates intensive fat oxidation processes in
organic meat. Lower pH values and poorer water-binding capability in organic poultry meat
were linked to greater losses while cooking. The above-mentioned dependence between a
farming method and meat pH was not confirmed in the studies conducted by Combes et al.
(2003). However, in both experiments, a lower content of total fat in organic meat was noted,
which attests to its higher nutritional value (Castellini et al., 2002; Combes et al., 2003).
The quality of rabbit meat is quite rarely brought up in analytical studies. It is difficult to
quantify, since – according to many authors (Combes, 2004; Dalle Zotte, 2004; Combes &
Dalle Zotte, 2005; Hern´
andez & Gondret, 2006) – rabbit meat yields great nutritional value
when compared against other kinds of meat. Since there are many rabbit breeds as well as
breeding methods, a reliable comparison of the meat quality of rabbits from organic and
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248 Organic Meat Production and Processing
56 days 81 days
% of total fat
control breast
organic breast
control drumstick
organic drumstic
Figure 14.5 Content of docosahexaenoic acid (22:6,
-3) in organic and conventional chicken breast
and drumstick (% of total fat.) (After Castellini
et al
., 2002.)
conventional farms is quite complicated. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that there are
very few publications on this topic.
In the studies by Lebas et al. (2002), same age rabbits were slaughtered from both systems.
The analysis revealed a slightly higher ratio of the cooled carcass weight to the pre-slaughter
weight and more alkaline reaction of muscles and higher fat content in organic rabbit meat.
The results seem to be surprising because – like other animal species from organic farms –
organic rabbits also have more opportunities for physical activities due to run access during
their production cycle.
Combes et al. (2003) compared organic and conventional meat of the rabbit of similar
weight but different ages. Organic animals had a lower content of meat in the back part of
the carcass and a lower fat content. They were also characterised by smaller amounts of
intramuscular fat.
Pla et al. (2007) analysed the composition of fatty acids in rabbit meat from both farming
systems. Back leg meat of organic rabbits contained a lower level of monounsaturated fatty
acids and a higher content of PUFA compared to the same parts of conventional animals.
The concentration of saturated fatty acids turned out to be similar for both types of meat.
From a nutritional viewpoint, organic rabbit meat has the advantage of having a higher ratio
of polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acids. These differences in chemical composition were
explained by the dissimilar production systems where a crucial role is most likely played by
the diet of the hindgut fermentation of the mammal as well as the age at slaughter (Pla et al.,
2007), given that the animal breeds were the same in both groups.
In follow-up research, Pla (2008) compared organic and conventional rabbits of different
slaughter age and weight, raised under the national organic standard in Spain. According to
the authors, the age differentiation did not have any impact on differences found during the
studies. The differences were primarily associated with the organic carcasses being leaner
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Nutritional Value of Organic Meat and Potential Human Health Response 249
and their indicator of meat to bone weight being lower. Moreover, organic meat included
less protein and a lower content of fatty acids. Conventional meat contained more saturated
and monounsaturated fatty acids but less polyunsaturated and n-6 and n-3 fatty acids. In
organic rabbit meat, the ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acids was higher, so
theoretically it was better; but the proportion of n-6:n-3 fatty acids was higher as well, and
therefore it was less favourable from a nutritional point of view. Organic meat protein was
richer in methionine and cysteine. These particular amino acids represent sulphur exogenous
amino acids, not synthesised in humans, where the available amount depends entirely on
their availability in diets. These amino acids are necessary for synthesis of keratin – a basic
structural protein of hair and nails as well as other functions.
Analysing study results discussed in this chapter, some conclusions may be drawn. Factors
such as organic diet and breeding conditions have a significant influence on the nutritional
quality of organic farm meat. A frequently – although not always – stated effect of the
use of this system in combination with animal breeding is the lower total fat content in
meat, regardless of the source of meat. The legal framework of organic farming imposed
on the farmer’s management obligation is to provide animals with free motion opportunities
by the means of run access. It supports not only animal’s well-being, i.e. physical and
mental comfort, but is also positively reflected in meat quality. Lower carcass fat, and
consequently lower calorific value, is a factor considered to be very beneficial to consumers.
Such characteristics prevent obesity, development of atherosclerosis or type 2 diabetes, i.e.
civilisation diseases of the 21st century, where diet is most often considered to be the cause.
Besides fat content in the carcass, there are also observed differences in fat distribution in
body – organic meat has a higher content of intramuscular fat, which is defined as ‘marbling’
due to its appearance. It is a favourable property and is considered a sensory assessment,
since it relates to higher meat juiciness and tastiness.
Diets fed to organic animals also have a fundamental impact on the composition of meat
fatty acids. A significantly longer period of pasturage in vegetation season leading to a greater
share of fresh grass in the daily animal diet followed by a winter season where there is more
hay and hay silage, in conjunction with lower levels of other cereal silages and concentrates
compared to conventional system, appears to have a major impact on meat quality and
composition. The reasons described include considerable differences in meat composition –
organic raw materials possess much more favourable proportions of unsaturated fatty acids,
including n-3 acids, all considered important for optimal human health. Among the human
health attributes are their anti-cancer effect, as well as their ability to act preventively against
coronary heart diseases via reduction in cholesterol levels in blood, stimulating the operation
of immune system and favourably influencing the operation of nervous system (De Deckere,
1999; Bucher et al., 2002; Augustsson et al., 2003).
Several studies – though much less numerous – allow for the assumption that organic
animal meat includes greater mineral content, in particular haeme iron, which ensures proper
operation of circulatory system and improves resistance to infections and stimulates brain
It is difficult to conclude whether organic meat has a higher protein content; however,
there are assumptions that in such raw materials this fraction is considered more valuable
from human nutritional viewpoint. It may include greater amounts of essential amino acids.
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250 Organic Meat Production and Processing
Table 14.1 The comparison of selected quality indicators of organic and conventional meat.
The kind
of meat The examined
indicators The obtained results The author
mutton Composition of fatty acids Higher level of
-3 PUFA and lower
level of
-6 PUFA in ORG meat;
higher DHA and EPA content in
ORG meat
et al
Beef Carcass mass Lower in ORG breeding Woodward &
Fat content Higher in ORG meat
Content of intramuscular fat Higher in ORG meat
Beef Carcass classification under
EUROP system Higher marks for ORG breeding
carcasses Hansson
et al
Content of total fat Lower in ORG meat
Beef Content of total fat Higher in ORG meat Walshe
et al
Content of protein Comparable in both groups
Content of ash Comparable in both groups
Content of beta-carotene Comparable in both groups
Content of alpha-tocopherol Comparable in both groups
Content of retinol Comparable in both groups
Composition of fatty acids Comparable in both groups
Storage quality Worse in case of ORG meat due
to colour and lipid stability
Beef Composition of fatty acids Lower SFA level in ORG meat;
lower MUFA level in ORG meat
-3 PUFA level and lower
-6 MUFA level in ORG meat
et al
., 2000
Pork Fat-free body mass Higher in ORG meat Sundrum and
Acosta, 2003
Content of intramuscular fat Higher in ORG meat
Pork Content of intramuscular fat Higher in ORG meat Millet
et al
Pork Composition of fatty acids Lower SFA level and more PUFA
in ORG meat Hansen
et al
Content of TBARS Higher in ORG meat
Pork Composition of fatty acids Higher PUFA level and lower
SFA level in ORG meat Hansen
et al
Pork Composition of fatty acids Higher PUFA level and lower
SFA level in ORG meat Nilzen
et al
Content of TBARS Higher in ORG meat
Pork Content of TBARS Higher in ORG meat Lopez-Bote
et al
1998; Warnants
et al
., 1999
Pork Fat-free body mass Higher in ORG meat Bee
et al
., 2004
Pork Fat-free body mass Lower in ORG meat Olsson
et al
Content of total fat Higher in ORG meat
Content of intramuscular fat Lower in ORG meat
BLBK406-c14 BLBK406-Ricke December 30, 2011 8:2 244mm×172mm
Nutritional Value of Organic Meat and Potential Human Health Response 251
Table 14.1 (
The kind
of meat The examined
indicators The obtained results The author
Pork Composition of fatty acids Higher PUFA level (including
-3 acids)
in ORG meat Kim
et al
., 2009
Mutton Composition of fatty acids Higher
-3 PUFA level and lower
PUFA level in ORG meat Fisher
et al
Content of intramuscular fat Higher in ORG meat
Content of total fat Lower in ORG meat
Content of TBARS Higher in ORG meat
Lamb Composition of fatty acids Higher
-3 PUFA level (in particular
linolenic acid) in ORG meat;
-3 ratio
et al
Poultry Content of abdominal fat Lower in ORG meat Castellini
et al
2002; Combes
et al
., 2003
Content of iron Higher in ORG meat
Content of breast and thigh
meat Higher in ORG breeding
Composition of fatty acids Higher PUFA and SFA levels and lower
MUFA level in ORG meat; higher
acids level (in particular DHA) in
ORG meat
Content of TBARS Higher in ORG meat
Meat pH Lower in ORG meat
Content of total fat Lower in ORG meat
meat Content of total fat Higher for ORG rabbits Lebas
et al
Meat pH Higher for ORG rabbits
meat Content of total fat Lower for ORG rabbits Combes
et al
meat Composition of fatty acids Lower MUFA level and higher PUFA
level in ORG rabbit meat; comparable
SFA concentration; PUFA:SFA ratio
higher in ORG rabbit meat
et al
., 2007
meat Content of total fat Lower for ORG rabbits Pla, 2008
Content of protein Lower for ORG rabbits
Composition of fatty acids More
-6 and
-3 PUFA and lower SFA
and MUFA levels in ORG rabbit meat;
PUFA:SFA ratio higher in ORG rabbit
-3 acids ratio higher in
ORG meat
Composition of protein More Met and Cys in ORG rabbit meat
ORG, organic meat; MUFA, monounsaturated fatty acids; PUFA, polyunsaturated fatty acids; SFA, saturated fatty acids;
TBARS, thiobarbituric acid reactive substances: Met, methionine; Cys, cysteine.
Because humans are unable to synthesise them, it is recommended to supply them in diet as
exogenous amino acid supplements.
The list of the most essential nutritional properties of meat, representing a quality com-
parison of organic and conventional raw materials on the basis of the previous studies, is
presented in Table 14.1.
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... In line with this finding, Wang et al. (2009) indicated that no significant difference was observed in dressing percentage between chickens from free-range and conventional systems. In contrast, several pieces of research (Dong and Ogle 2000;Rembialkowska and Badowski 2012;Kolluri et al. 2015;Abdullah and Buchtova 2016) have indicated poor growth and body weight of poultry under organic, free range, and extensive rearing systems due to higher activity and more energy consumption related to body thermoregulation. This hypothesis could apply even more to W ducks, according to the results of our study. ...
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The aim of the study was to evaluate selected properties of giblets (liver, heart, and gizzard) from conventional (C), organic (O), and wild (W) ducks. A total of 24 giblets (24 of each organ) were analysed in each bird group. Production properties, colour indicators, haem pigment content and chemical composition were compared. The heaviest organ with the highest yield was the liver in C and W ducks and the gizzard in O ducks (P ˂ 0.05). The liver and gizzard of W and O ducks were darker (P < 0.05) compared to the same organs in C ducks. The redness of the heart of O ducks was higher (P < 0.05) than that of the heart of both other groups of ducks (C and W). All W duck organs contained (P < 0.05) more haem pigment. The livers of reared ducks (C and O) contained more protein (P < 0.05) than the livers of W birds. The liver of C reared poultry was about 3-4 × fattier (P ˂ 0.05) compared to the liver of the remaining two groups of ducks. The heart of wild ducks had the highest protein and lowest fat content, the heart of ducks from the C breeding system had the least protein, whereas ducks bred organically had the highest amount of fat in the heart. Ducks from the O system had a fattier gizzard compared to other birds (P ˂ 0.05). The highest protein percentages were found in the gizzards of W ducks, the smallest in the gizzards of C poultry.
... The results of our study showed that the yield of conventional eviscerated carcass was higher than OC carcasses, which could be due to the greater physical activity and larger energy expenditures related to thermoregulation of organic poultry (Rembialkowska and Badowski 2012). In contrast, the wings and necks of OC yielded more than CC, which is in agreement with the results found by Fanatico et al. (2005) indicating that birds with slow-and medium-growing genotypes had higher wing yields than chickens with fast-growing genotypes. ...
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The aim of the present study was to investigate qualitative and quantitative properties of wings, offal (liver, heart and gizzard) and necks of chickens from organic and conventional production systems, currently available on the market for Czech consumers. Production properties (yield and weight), surface colour (lightness, redness, yellowness) and chemical indicators (dry matter, total protein, net protein, collagen, hydroxyproline, fat, ash and phosphorus) were evaluated in fresh chicken broilers. Conventionally produced chickens had higher carcass yields but higher wing yields and weights were observed in organic broilers. The skin, bones, tip (left wings) and the meat with skin (right wings) of organic broilers were heavier (P < 0.05) than those of conventional chickens. The dry matter and total protein content of deboned organic broiler wings (meat with skin) was greater (P < 0.01) than those of conventional wings. Similarly as for yields, the offal (heart, gizzard) and necks of organic chickens had significantly (P < 0.01) higher weights in comparison with conventional chickens. Colour indicators showed that the external surface of the livers, necks and gizzards (muscle) from organic chickens were darker (lightness; P < 0.01). Total protein content in livers, hearts and necks of organic chickens was greater; fat content in the livers and necks of organic broilers was also higher (P < 0.05) than those of conventional broilers. The ash and phosphorus in the necks of conventional broilers was higher (P < 0.05) than in organic chickens. This study indicates that the quantity and quality of offal and neck from organic broilers are slightly superior compared to conventional chickens.
Livestock-derived food consumption is at a turning point. The ongoing changes in food demand and increased preference for minimally processed products, coupled with more awareness and scrutiny by consumers, news media, and consumer activist groups, have created a halt to the “meat revolution” of the last decades. Livestock production and consumption systems feature aberrations that cannot be ignored. Livestock farming and its products can indeed create negative effects on human and animal health when animal feed, animal husbandry, and animal protein intake are inadequate. In response to scares or uncertainty, many households have been banning animal-based foods from their table. This is worrying, especially for vulnerable groups, because animal-based foods enhance the ability of children to grow and develop cognitively and remain in good health. This is crucially essential to the future development of all nations’ workforce. Exploring public health impacts of livestock consumption and production suggests that reducing meat consumption would be prudent given the diverse biological, chemical, and physical processes at play in our environment and within our bodies. More attention needs to be paid to quality, and organic, biodynamic and grassfed animals have a track records of products with higher nutritional qualities, while greatly reducing exposure to toxic residues and antibiotics. The long and complex journey toward healthy foods will also require a more holistic approach to safety assessments, through the adoption of multiomics as part of regulatory risk assessment procedures. In particular, a radical change in the way we treat animals and nature will be crucial to prevent further pandemic outbreaks. Intensive livestock systems are time-bombs that should be defused.
Organic food production is a quickly growing sector with an increase of approximately 250% in 10 years. There is no use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in organic farming; instead, only natural fertilizers and biological pest control are used. According to the recent big meta-analysis, organic food contains significantly lower levels of contaminants and higher levels of antioxidants than conventional food. Preliminary studies indicate that organically eating consumers better evaluate their health status than the conventional ones. Further studies are necessary in order to confirm the tentative results and to understand the mechanisms of the organic diet impact on health.
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The principles of organic livestock production are included in the Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 of June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products. Animals in this breeding system are fed organically produced feed, in accordance with the above mentioned regulation. Organic food might be defined as a product of an agricultural system where artificial pesticides and mineral fertilizers are not used. In the case of animal production the use of antibiotics and growth promoters is forbidden. The demand for organic animal products is continually growing in Europe as well as in other parts of the world. The present paper reviews articles on the quality of organic meat. The analysis of the research carried out to date justifies the conclusion that meat from organic husbandry shows the following positive quality traits: a higher muscle weight in breasts and thighs, a lower total fat content in the carcass, a higher content of ; intramuscular fat, different composition of fatty acids (considerably lower n-6/n-3 fatty acid ratio) and better sensory quality. Negative traits of organic beef and pork are a lower total carcass weight and a higher value ; of TBARS - tiobarbituric reactive substances, indicating faster lipid oxidation and consequently a shorter shelf-life.
Les aliments pour l’homme, outre leurs aspects nutritionnels de couverture des besoins, ont acquis depuis peu une valeur santé. Face à ce phénomène, de nouveaux besoins de connaissances concernant les constituants des aliments sont apparus. Cet article a pour objet de montrer les points forts et les lacunes dans les connaissances relatives à la valeur nutritionnelle de la viande de lapin. 50 publications ont été sélectionnées. Pour des lapins aux âges et poids commerciaux d’abattage, les teneurs en protéines (21 + 1,5 % de viande fraîche), eau (72,5 + 2,5 % de viande fraîche) et minéraux totaux (1,2 + 0,1 % de viande fraîche) sont similaires dans les différents travaux et ne nécessitent pas d’autres investigations. Les principales causes de variations de la teneur en lipides (5 + 3,3 % de viande fraîche) sont connues et bien décrites (région anatomique et alimentation principalement). La viande de lapin est pauvre en sodium (49 mg/100 g) mais riche en phosphore (277 mg/100 g). Les teneurs en certains éléments tels le fer (1,4 mg/100 g), le cuivre ou le sélénium ne sont pas suffisamment bien établies. Par ailleurs les teneurs d’autres oligo-éléments n’ont à notre connaissance jamais été évaluées. Enfin, les données disponibles semblent indiquer que la viande de lapin montre un profil global en vitamines proche de celui observé chez le poulet. Il est cependant nécessaire de confirmer ces observations. La viande de lapin présente une teneur en cholestérol relativement basse comparativement aux autres viandes de 59 mg/100g et un ratio en acides gras oméga 6 / oméga 3 avantageux de 5,9. L’équilibre en acide gras de la viande de lapin, animal monogastrique et herbivore, montre par ailleurs une remarquable plasticité en fonction de l’équilibre en acide gras de la ration.
Due to increasing consumer demand for safe, high quality, ethical foods, the production and consumption of organic food and produce has increased rapidly over the past two decades. In recent years the safety and quality of organic foods has been questioned. If consumer confidence and demand in the industry is to remain high, the safety, quality and health benefits of organic foods must be assured. With its distinguished editor and team of top international contributors, Handbook of organic food safety and quality provides a comprehensive review of the latest research in the area. Part one provides an introduction to basic quality and safety with chapters on factors affecting the nutritional quality of foods, quality assurance and consumer expectations. Part two discusses the primary quality and safety issues related to the production of organic livestock foods including the effects of feeding regimes and husbandry on dairy products, poultry and pork. Further chapters discuss methods to control and reduce infections and parasites in livestock. Part three covers the main quality and safety issues concerning the production of organic crop foods, such as agronomic methods used in crop production and their effects on nutritional and sensory quality, as well as their potential health impacts. The final part of the book focuses on assuring quality and safety throughout the food chain. Chapters focus on post-harvest strategies to reduce contamination of food and produce, and ethical issues such as fair trade products. The final chapters conclude by reviewing quality assurance strategies relating to specific organic food sectors. The Handbook of organic food quality and safety is a standard reference for professionals and producers within the industry concerned with improving and assuring the quality and safety of organic foods. • Improve the safety, quality and health benefits of organic foods • Discusses the latest research findings in this area • Focuses on assuring quality and safety throughout the food chain.