Welcome to our first discussion on Meat Quality. I guess the first detail is to establish what is meant by Meat Quality.
When we hear the term all natural to most people it means many things. To the USDA it means simply not enjecting or adding additives to meat.
When you are shopping in you favorite meat case read the labels carefully. The marketing experts will gladly add the term all natural to a label to get you to purchase their product. They don't really care what you may think all natural means they only care that they are legal in what they are advertising as stated by the USDA.
In the old days of the 90s it was common to inject a saline solution (salt-water) into the pork in an attempt to add flavor and moisture plus profit by selling water at pork prices.
Now it is common to capitalize on the value added farmer by miminicking his marketing (All Natural) by getting the USDA to define the term in a way that is pleasing to the big corporate producers.
The problem is the big producer will not allow their hogs to roam free range as currently interpreted. It will only be a matter of time before free range means a hog can turn around in its pen.
Free Range and All Natural are terms that were first used by Small Farmers for the purpose of describing the enviroment and quality of life the animal was allowed to enjoy.
Now in an attempt to improve meat quality some processors are taking the animal fat and converting it to liquid and injecting it back into the meat. This is done to convert the overlean boring pork into a product that people will actually buy and eat.
What many of the All Natural Farmers are doing is we are using breeds and bloodlines that the large producers don't have access to or aren't productive enough. We are breeding hogs to have intermuscular fat which adds flavor.
Also by offering a free range enviorment the hogs are getting lots of exercise and some belive that helps the PH of the meat to remain closer to neutral which helps the meat maintain more moisture.
Our pork looks more like steak than the other white meat. It is very red when it is packaged. You can also see the marbling in the meat.
I hope this explains meat quality and demonstrates the different animal welfare standards used by a lot of Small Producers.