The energy required for muscle activity in the live animal is obtained from sugars (glycogen) in the muscle. In the healthy and well-rested animal, the glycogen content of the muscle is high. After the animal has been slaughtered, the glycogen in the muscle is converted into lactic acid, and the muscle and carcass becomes firm (rigor mortis). This lactic acid is necessary to produce meat, which is tasteful and tender, of good keeping quality and good colour. If the animal is stressed before and during slaughter, the glycogen is used up, and the lactic acid level that develops in the meat after slaughter is reduced. This will have serious adverse effects on meat quality.

Pale Soft Exudative (PSE)

PSE in pigs is caused by severe, short-term stress just prior to slaughter, for example during off-loading, handling, holding in pens and stunning. Here the animal is subjected to severe anxiety and fright caused by manhandling, fighting in the pens and bad stunning techniques. All this may result in biochemical processes in the muscle in particular in rapid breakdown of muscle glycogen and the meat becoming very pale with pronounced acidity (pH values of 5.4-5.6 immediately after slaughter) and poor flavour. This type of meat is difficult to use or cannot be used at all by butchers or meat processors and is wasted in extreme cases. Allowing pigs to rest for one hour prior to slaughter and quiet handling will considerably reduce the risk of PSE.

Dark Firm and Dry (DFD)

This condition can be found in carcasses of cattle or sheep and sometimes pigs and turkeys soon after slaughter. The carcass meat is darker and drier than normal and has a much firmer texture. The muscle glycogen has been used up during the period of handling, transport and pre-slaughter and as a result, after slaughter, there is little lactic acid production, which results in DFD meat. This meat is of inferior quality as the less pronounced taste and the dark colour is less acceptable to the consumer and has a shorter shelf life due to the abnormally high pH-value of the meat (6.4-6.8). DFD meat means that the carcass was from an animal that was stressed, injured or diseased before being slaughtered.