Phytogenics improves growth performance and meat quality in pigs

As the industry seeks natural products to improve growth performance and meat quality, phytogenics can be a potential solution.

Industry Voice by BIOMIN

September 30, 2019

3 Min Read
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Due to the increase in domestic and export demands, U.S. pork production is forecasted to be 4% higher in 2019 than last year (Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA, April 2019). To achieve the demands of increasing meat production, various strategies have been applied to improve growth performance and meat quality in hog production.

As pigs grow larger, feed efficiency decreases due to the feed required for maintenance relative to lean growth increases. Additionally, lipid accretion increases compared to lean growth as pigs approach market weight. The typical scenario for one 155 lb pig fed on an ad libitum basis is approximately 34% of daily energy intake being directed to maintenance. Thus, improving feed efficiency at these growing and finishing stages are focused on minimizing maintenance costs and improving nutrient availability directed towards weight gain.

As a common practice in certain countries, ractopamine (β-adrenergic agonist) has been widely used in finishing pigs to improve growth performance and leanness. Ractopamine functions as a repartitioning agent, stimulating skeletal muscles to grow instead of adipose tissues. Studies indicate that ractopamine can effectively increase lean muscle growth and minimize fat deposition and thus improve feed efficiency; however, increasing muscle accretion decreases lipid deposition which may affect tenderness and marbling. Additionally, with an increase in export demand from markets such as China and Russia that require ractopamine-free meat, more producers are seeking ractopamine alternative feed additives.

Phytogenic feed additives (PFA) are plant-derived products comprising of a variety of mixtures and compounds of plant origin including herbs, spice extracts, and essential oil combinations. The main beneficial effects of PFA products include improving feed palatability, antioxidant and antimicrobial effects, promoting intestinal function, and increasing nutrient digestibility.

In a trial conducted with a PFA product, Digestarom® Finish (BIOMIN) was tested as a ractopamine alternative. The results demonstrated that pigs fed Digestarom Finish increased body weight compared to those fed a commercial diet during the grow-finish period, which resulted in a similar market weight compared to a ractopamine feeding program (Figure 1). A total of 504 pigs were allotted into two treatments with 9 pens per treatment and 28 pigs per pen. Digestarom Finish was added at 0.3 lb/ton from day 0 to 125, and ractopamine was added at 9 g/ton from day 106 to 125. Considering the cost for additional amino acids and crude protein needed when using ractopamine, utilizing Digestarom Finish resulted in a $1.42/pig gain over ractopamine for similar results. Furthermore, this would provide opportunities for producers to access export markets. (Figure 1). Effect of Digestarom Finish on growth performance of growing-finishing pigs. Means lacking common small letters are significantly different (P < 0.05).


Another study evaluating the effect of Digestarom Finish on meat quality showed that meat quality parameters were improved by Digestarom Finish supplementation when compared to control and ractopamine treatments (Mendoza et al., 2018; Figure 2). The meat quality test was conducted at Iowa State University’s meat quality lab.

A total of 90 loins were used to test color, pH, cook loss, and sensory attributes (juiciness, tenderness, and flavor). Digestarom Finish improved pork meat quality by reducing cook loss and improving sensory attributes compared to the control and ractopamine treatments (color and pH were in the normal range; data not shown). Based on these results, Digestarom Finish would be beneficial for producers to produce premium pork.

Figure 2. Effect of Digestarom Finish on pork meat quality (Adapted from Mendoza et al., 2018).



Overall, these results suggest the supplementation of a phytogenic feed additive, Digestarom Finish, can be a viable alternative to improve performance and meat quality in pigs. Digestarom Finish provides an option for producers to use a natural feed additive in producing healthy and safe meat.

More information on Digestarom Finish, visit

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