Pigs (n 144, 30 kg liveweight) were allocated to one of three diets differing in the level of whole linseed (Linum usitatissimum, also known as flaxseed). The diets contained 0, 50 and 100 g/kg for diets L0, L50 and L100 respectively, while containing a constant oil content (60 g/kg). Pigs were slaughtered at a liveweight of 77–87 kg. With the exception of a slight difference in feed intake, there was no effect of diet on production characteristics or carcass traits. Levels of α-linolenic acid were increased in all tissues studied as the amount of linseed in the diet increased. In the plasma, m. longissimus thoracis, liver and kidney eicosapentaenoic acid concentration increased markedly. Docosapentaenoic acid concentration increased in the muscle, liver and kidney, whereas in the plasma higher levels of docosahexaenoic acid were observed. None of the longer-chain fatty acids (C20 or longer) were detected in the subcutaneous fat. The changes in fatty acid composition resulted in marked changes to the n-6 : n-3 and arachidonic : eicosapentaenoic acid ratios. Feeding whole linseed had no negative effect on the oxidative stability of the meat. Sensory panel results showed no significant differences by diet except for a reduction in abnormal odour (odour perceived by panellists to be abnormal in pigmeat) in the L50 diet and a reduction in the skatole odour (odour of 3-methylindole) in the pigs fed on diet L100. It is concluded that increasing the linseed content of pig diets up to 100 g/kg has no adverse effect on the carcass or meat quality whilst enhancing the levels of n-3 fatty acids which have a potentially positive health effect in man.
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