Effect of pre-slaughter beef cattle handling on welfare and beef quality in Ambo and Guder markets and abattoirs, Oromia Regional State, Ethiopia
Improper beef cattle handling could affect welfare and meat quality. The effect of beef cattle handling during transportation and in the lairage on the animal welfare and beef quality was studied in relation to Guder and Ambo markets and abattoirs. Data were collected from 200 respondents using a semi-structured questionnaire. For laboratory analysis, animals were randomly assigned into three groups: Group I - trekked from the nearest places (≤30 km), Group II - trekked farthest places (>30 km), and Group III - transported using vehicles (>50 km). One-hundred pooled beef swab samples were collected from the flank, brisket, and rump to determine aerobic bacterial load and another 100 beef samples to assess pH values. Descriptive statistics, independent t-test, and ANOVA were used for analysis. The result of the study indicated that trekking was the major means of transportation (72%). The majority of animal handlers (92%) did not allow animals to feed, water, and rest during trekking. Beef cattle were overcrowded and beaten during vehicle transport. About 47% of the beef samples were abnormal of which the majority were DFD (dark, firm and dry) beef and DFD beef with spoilage. The pH of meat was significantly affected by the distance traveled before slaughter using both trekking and vehicle transportation (t= -3.5, p=0.001). Therefore, it is concluded that there was poor handling and stressful situation of beef cattle before slaughtering, which negatively affected the welfare and beef quality. Hence, pertinent proclamations, regulations, and delivery of animal welfare awareness training for different stakeholders are urgently needed.