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Effect of age and gender on carcass traits and meat quality of farmed brown hares

  • A. Trocino (a1), M. Birolo (a2), S. Dabbou (a3), F. Gratta (a2), N. Rigo (a4) and G. Xiccato (a2)...

A total of 48 sub-adult hares and adult reproducing farmed hares were used to characterize carcass and meat traits according to the age and gender of animals. With respect to carcass traits, when age increased, the carcass weight significantly increased (2022 to 3391 g; P<0.001), but dressing out percentages did not change. The dissectible fat (1.3% to 2.2%; P<0.05) and Longissimus lumborum (LL) proportions (13.5% to 14.5%; P<0.001) and muscle-to-bone ratio of hind legs (5.11 to 6.23; P<0.001) increased, whereas the hind leg proportions decreased (37.3% to 36.3%; P=0.01). As for the meat quality, the pH of hind leg (5.74 to 5.83; P<0.001) and LL (5.53 to 5.69; P<0.001) increased with age, while the L* index decreased in both cuts (42.9 to 34.4 in hind leg; 45.1 to 40.3 in LL; P<0.001). The redness index increased at the hind leg (4.07 to 5.76; P<0.001), while it decreased at LL (3.03 to 1.46; P<0.001). In the case of the hind leg, meat thawing losses decreased (1.58% to 1.02%), and shear force increased (2.97 to 4.02 kg/g). In the case of LL, thawing losses decreased (8.79% to 4.91%; P<0.001) in the adult hares compared with the sub-adult ones. Meat water and protein contents decreased in the hind leg and LL of the adult hares compared with the sub-adult ones, whereas ether extract increased in a restricted range in LL only (0.92% to 1.11%; P<0.001). In the case of the hind leg, the rate of the saturated fatty acids (SFA) decreased (41.0% to 26.7%), and the rate of the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) increased (34.0% to 45.3%) (P<0.001). In the case of LL, SFA (38.6% to 42.9%) and monounsaturated fatty acids (19.4% to 27.2%) increased, whereas PUFA decreased (42.0% to 30.1%) when the age increased (P<0.001). Gender affected only the slaughter results and carcass traits. In conclusion, farmed hares have favourable slaughter results (high dressing percentage), carcass traits (high hind legs and loins rates), and meat nutritional value (high-protein, low-fat meat). This fact would offer additional commercial opportunities, in addition to restocking, to hare farmers.

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