Woman shares details of what makes a quality carcass

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Saturday, July 30, 2011
— Two young 4-H’ers peered up into the rib cage of the pig.

Huddled together, they leaned in close for a good look at the cool, reddish meat.

This is what the market animal show is all about, although it’s usually covered up with a well-groomed hide and a can of lacquer.

About 40 people Thursday night crowded into a back room at Sorg’s Quality Meats & Sausage on Highway 14 near Darien for the results of the Rock County 4-H Fair swine and beef carcass contests.

The market lamb carcass contest took place the week before the fair.

In all three cases, exhibitors showed the animals live before they were taken to Sorg’s for processing. Exhibitors showed different animals later in the week.

From the long rows of pink and white beef and swine carcasses in the cooler, owner John Sorg slid the champions into the clean cutting room so participants could get a look. Using a long, wooden pole with a metal hook at the end, he slid a carcass along a steel railing and swung it into position for judge Sarah Wells to point to during her presentation.

By the time 4-H’ers in animal projects are in their teens, they usually know at least the basics about livestock judging.

Carcass judging is a different matter, said swine Superintendent Mark Gunn. The judging is a combination of math and personal preference, Gunn said.

Wells worked through the entries on her own, compiled the results and passed them out when the crowd arrived. She spent time explaining what judges look for in carcass contests.

Here are her tips from Thursday’s swine carcass contest.

In the swine contest, judges award points for each of the following:

Drip loss—Wells touches each carcass in addition to inspecting it for moisture loss. If the meat is sweating or if water runs down her arm, that’s a bad sign, she said. If a carcass is losing water, steaks and chops will be dry, she said. The factor is largely controlled by genetics, Wells said. The pH of the animal’s body when it is slaughtered also affects moisture loss, she said.

Color—The color should be a healthy pink or red. A pale color means poor quality, she said.

Marbling—That refers to the fat inside the muscle of the pig. It’s not as important as it is in a beef carcass and is fairly uniform between pigs, Wells said.

Loin-eye size—The whole muscle along a pig’s back is referred to as its loin. The eye is the surface area of the cut, she said. In pigs, a 7-inch cut is desirable, and a 10-inch eye is huge, she said.

Back fat—Measuring at the 10th rib and the last rib, Wells gauges the amount of fat on the pig. She then used the weight of the pig when it was weaned and the weight of the pig at the fair to calculate the amount of lean meat the animal gained each day as it grew.

The big difference between show pigs and commercial pigs is the muscle, Wells said. Show pigs are far more muscular than their commercially raised relatives. Both carry about the same amount of body fat, she said.


Founded in 1959, Sorg’s is located at N4290 Highway 14, Darien. In addition to fresh and frozen cuts of beef, pork, lamb and poultry, the retail store offers deli items, sausages, brats, spices, vegetables and more.

For more information, call (262) 724-5554 or search for Sorg’s on Gazlo.com.

Last updated: 5:47 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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