Author: 800 CHAB News / Sask Ag and Food

Researchers at the Prairie Swine Centre in Saskatoon are embarking on a research initiative involving flax use in swine production, funded by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food's Agriculture Development Fund (ADF #20050724).

Dr. John Patience is with the Prairie Swine Centre.

"This involves taking a locally grown ingredient, i.e. flax, and taking advantage of a particular feature of flax seed - the oil content, and in particular, the unique fatty acid composition - which makes it rich in what is called Omega-3 fatty acids.

"These have been identified in human nutrition as desirable from a health point of view. You will see on the shelves in stores, for example, Omega-3 enriched eggs, or you can and buy tablets containing Omega-3-rich supplements. What this particular project seeks to do is to create pork which is also enriched with Omega-3 fatty acids, and thereby to create a pork product which can be segregated or identified on the store shelf as unique or special in its nutritive value or functional properties."

Dr. Patience points out that, long before his team submitted its application for research funding to ADF, it knew that it was possible to enrich pork with Omega-3 fatty acids.

"That research was done a long time ago. What we are doing with this four-year project is developing a template for how to most effectively feed flax to the pig in order to get the enrichment that is desired on a consistent basis at the optimum cost, and to do so in a manner that doesn't bring any undesirable characteristics.

"Over the next four years, we will be looking at methods of processing flax seed to best deliver the product to the pig. We will look at various combinations of how much flax, or fractions of flax seed, we would feed to the pig, and for how long, in order to consistently achieve this Omega-3 enrichment, so that we are providing a consistent and dependable product to the consumer marketplace."

Patience says his team would also carry out taste panel work and other evaluations of the final pork product, to make sure that it offers the same excellent flavour, texture and tenderness of conventional pork.

"We have to be careful when we feed a flax product like oil to pigs, so that we don't overdo it, because if you overfeed the product, it can result in soft fat, for example, which is undesirable from both a consumer point of view and from a processed pork point of view."

Surely, finding new opportunities for locally produced flax can only be beneficial for Saskatchewan producers.