Slaughtering in small-scale local vs large-scale abattoir reduced animal stress.
Further improvements of animal welfare are needed in both commercial systems.
Consumers could differentiate steak colour from the different slaughter systems.
Meat from local abattoir has improved palatability and shear force values.
Final pH is not thought to be the main contributor to the meat quality differences.
The aim of the study was to compare stress response and meat quality related to two abattoirs types. Pirenaica heifers were slaughtered in a small-scale local abattoir (LOC, n=8) or in a large-scale industrial abattoir (IND, n=8). The two groups differed in terms of transport distance and duration, waiting time, stunning to slaughter time, facilities, handling and processing conditions. Blood parameters showed higher levels of glucose, neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio, and neutrophils in animals slaughtered at the IND compared to the LOC, but cortisol levels were high in both groups. Meat colour from the LOC treatment was lighter, less red, yellow and saturated and had a greater hue angle than the IND, but colour deterioration showed a similar trend. LOC samples had lower shear force values and better eating quality compared to IND samples at day 11 of ageing. This study shows that slaughtering animals in small abattoirs, located close to farms, may reduce animal stress compared to large-scale industrial abattoirs, but there is room for improvement in both systems. Consumers may be able to differentiate steak colour from the different slaughter systems and find the meat from local abattoir animals more palatable. Final pH is not thought to be the main contributor to the differences.