Hierarchical clustering as a tool to develop a classification scheme for rabbit meat quality





cooking loss, DFD meat, feed withdrawal, hierarchical cluster analysis, pre-slaughter management, rabbit


This study aimed to characterise the quality of meat from commercially-raised rabbits. Animals came from five different producers and were  laughtered in three different plants under provincial or federal inspection jurisdiction. Animal behaviour evaluated by scan sampling prior to feed withdrawal (FW) and transport, as well as blood lactate concentration at exsanguination, did not raise concerns with respect to stress. Stomach pH was higher (P=0.047) when the FW time was short (≤13.5 h), at a mean value of 2.23. All pH values measured 1 h post-mortem from the Biceps femoris (BF) and almost all (97.6%) from the Longissimus lumborum (LL) were higher than 6. Values for ultimate pH measured 24 h postmortem(pHu) ranged from 5.80 to 6.83 and from 5.70 to 6.70 for BF and LL muscles, respectively. The maximum meat drip loss recorded was 2.6%, while cooking loss reached 30%. Meat lightness (L*) and colour intensity (C*) for the long FW times (≥23 h) were no different from those with short and intermediate (15.5 to 17.3 h) FW times. However, these colour parameters were higher for the short FW time class compared to the intermediate FW time class (P<0.02). A hierarchical cluster analysis based on pHu, cooking loss and lightness (L*) from 200 rabbit loins was performed. Of the four clusters created, clusters 1 and 2 had the best and second-best meat quality, respectively. Clusters 3 and 4 had the lowest meat quality and presented DFD-like (dark, firm and dry) characteristics. Meat did not exhibit PSE-like (pale, soft, exudative) characteristics, even for the slaughter lot with the minimum mean pHu. Of the eight slaughter lots evaluated, more than 50% of the meat from three of them fell into clusters 3 and 4; all three were in the intermediate FW time class. Overall, the quality of rabbit meat analysed was acceptable for commercial use, but rather variable. This suggests that there are factors within the value chain that are not yet fully controlled and require further investigation.


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Author Biographies

A.-S. Larivière-Lajoie, Université Laval

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science, Université Laval

Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods, Université Laval

Dany Cinq-Mars, Université Laval

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science

Frederic Guay, Université Laval

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science

Simon Binggeli, Université Laval

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science

Linda Saucier, Université Laval

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science, Université Laval

Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods, Université Laval


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