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Palatability and Flavors in Swine Nutrition

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Many factors affect the amount of feed pigs consume including the energy density of the diet, ambient temperature, immune status, stocking density, sex, genetic heredity, palatability, and flavor. Many of these factors can be controlled by proper management practices. One such practice includes selecting feed ingredients that are highly palatable. Palatability of feed, including taste and texture, refers to the acceptability by the pig and is often quantified by relative responses of feed consumption compared to other diets. Thus, pigs fed diets low in palatability often consume less than if fed diets high in palatability. Therefore, choosing highly palatable feed ingredients and/or using flavor additives to increase palatability may increase feed consumption.

How are Palatability and Taste Related?

The palatability of a feed is positively correlated to the taste experienced by animals. The sensation associated with eating includes the senses of smell and taste. The sense of smell is often experienced prior to consumption. Therefore, aroma is important as an initial attractant to feed. Groups of cells located on the tongue, commonly referred to as taste buds, are the major sensory organs responsible for taste. Pigs have approximately 19,000 taste buds, which is less than cattle that have 25,000 but more than humans that have 9,000. Therefore, it is likely that pigs’ sense of taste is equal to or greater than that of humans.

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