The effect of transportation during the hot season (42 °C) and low voltage electrical stimulation on physiological, histochemical and meat quality characteristics of Omani sheep was studied. Forty intact male sheep were divided into two equal groups: 3 h transported or non-transported. The non-transported group remained in holding pens for 48 h prior to slaughter, while the transported group was transported 300 km (approximately 3 h) in an open truck under solar radiation on the day of slaughter. Blood samples were collected from the animals before loading and prior to slaughter. Fifty percent of the carcasses from each group were randomly assigned to low voltage (90 V) at 20 min postmortem. Temperature and pH decline of the left longissimus thoracis muscle were monitored. Ultimate pH, WB-shear force, sarcomere length, myofibrillar fragmentation index (MFI), expressed juice, cooking loss and color L*, a*, b* were measured on samples from both sides muscles collected at 24 h postmortem at 3-4 °C. The transported sheep had significantly higher plasma cortisol (P < 0.01), adrenaline, nor-adrenaline and dopamine concentrations (P < 0.05) than non-stimulated animals. Electrical stimulation resulted in a significantly (P < 0.05) more rapid pH fall in muscle during the first 12 h after slaughter. Muscles from electrically-stimulated carcasses had significantly (P < 0.05) lower pH values, longer sarcomere length, lower shear force value, higher expressed juice, MFI and lighter L* than those from non-stimulated ones. The muscle samples from the transported sheep had significantly (P < 0.05) smaller and lower proportion of Types I and IIA fibers than those from the non-transported group. This study indicated that pre-slaughter transport at high ambient temperatures can cause noticeable changes in physiological and muscle metabolism responses in sheep. Electrical stimulation improved meat quality characteristics, which indicate that meat quality of transported sheep can be improved by electrical stimulation.
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