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Muscle development, growth and muscle function of meat animal (2015)

Name of course: “Muscle development, growth and muscle function of meat animal”.

ECTS credits: 5

Course parameters:

Language: English

Level of course: PhD course

Time of year: Spring 2015, Q4

No. of contact hours/hours in total incl. preparation, assignment(s) or the like: 80/125

Capacity limits:10

Objectives of the course:

The objectives of the course are to equip the PhD students with tools which make the students able to explain the interactions among muscle development, growth and metabolism in relation to production of meat of superior quality (Water holding capacity, postmortem glycolysis, color traits, texture and sensory quality), and the goal is that the PhD students are able to pin point problems with meat quality and suggest solutions in the production chain.

Learning outcomes and competences:

At the end of the course, the student should be able to

  • describe principles in the regulation of muscle development, growth, the significance of a consistent organ development and how growth and muscle function affect the raw material quality in interaction with energy metabolism
  • explain how the various processes behind muscle development, growth and energy metabolism affect the raw material (meat) quality through sedation and treatment of carcasses.  
  • develop alternative rearing strategies for improvement of the general quality of the meat or specific quality characteristics in consideration of animal welfare and the surrounding environment.
  • estimate the consequences for the raw meat quality of alternative production systems, point out the strengths and weaknesses, suggest solution models which either result in and improvement of the quality or a specific quality characteristic or reduce negative effects.
  • read, discuss and critically evaluate scientific papers in the area of muscle development and growth in relation to meat quality parameters

Compulsory programme: 

The students shall be active in dialog lecture, group work on theoretical exercises and presentation of group work and report writing.

Course contents:

The course is divided into five main issues.

  1. Muscle function and muscle fibre architecture
  2. Myogenesis in relation with postnatal growth capacity, the formation of meat and the quality of meat.
  3. Postnatal muscle growth (satellite cell proliferation, protein synthesis protein breakdown) in relation with formation of meat and the quality of meat.
  4. Stress, sedation and treatment of the carcass in relation with the quality of the meat.
  5. From raw meat quality to eating quality with focus on the raw meat quality characteristics like water-holding capacity, colour, tenderness and pH, and also on the significance of these characteristics on the eating quality of the meat.

Regarding the three first-mentioned issues, the factors in primary production affecting muscle growth will be elucidated, such as e.g. hormones, growth factors and the nervous system, maternal nutrition, breed and genotype, feeding and feed composition and finally treatment with hormonal compounds. Furthermore, the students are introduced to concept development of rearing strategies with the aim of improving the quality of meat.

Prerequisites: For PhD students in meat science, who are expected to have knowledge in biochemistry, nutrition, and animal production

Name of lecturer:

Course responsible: Senior Scientist Niels Oksbjerg, Dept. of Food Science, Aarhus University, e-mail: 

Further lecturers: Associate Professor Margrethe Therkildsen

Type of course/teaching methods: A combination of dialog lectures and group work theoretical exercises followed by presentation will be used.


England, E.M., Scheffler T.L., Kasten, S.C., Matarneh, S.K., Gerrard, D.E. 2013. Exploring the unknowns involved in the transformation of muscle to meat. Meat Science, 95:837-843.

Oksbjerg, N., Nissen, P.M., Therkilsen, M., Møller, H.S., Larsen, L.B., Andersen, N., and Young, J.F. 2013. In utero nutrition related to fetal development, postnatal performance and meat quality of pork. J anim. Sci. 91:1443-1453.

Chapter 15:Oksbjerg, N. and Therkildsen, M. 2012 Importance of muscle development and growth for animal production and meat

Oksbjerg, N. 2006. Effects of manipulating glycogen on meat quality in pigs. In Recent Advances in animal production. Ed: P.C. Garnsworthy and Wieseman, J. pp. 229-241. Nottingham University Press.

Andersen, H.J., Oksbjerg, N., and Therkildsen, M. 2005. Potential control tools in the production of fresh pork, beef and lamb demanded by the European society. Livestock Production Science 94:105-124.

Andersen, H.J., Oksbjerg, N., Young, J.F., Therkildsen, M. 2005. Feeding and meat quality – a future approach. Meat Science 70:543-554.

Oksbjerg, N., Gondret, F., Vestergaard, M. 2004. Basic principles of muscle development and growth in meat- producing mammals as affected by the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system. Domest Anim. Endocrinology 27:219-240.

Therkildsen, M.T., Vestergaard, M., Busk, H., Jensen, M.T., Riis, B., Karlsson, A.H., Kristensen, L., Ertbjerg, P., and Oksbjerg, N. 2004. Compensatory growth in slaughter pigs-in vitro muscle protein turnover at slaughter, circulating IGF-I, performance and carcass quality. Livest. Prod. Sci. 88:63-75.

Lefaucheur, L. 2009. Myofibre typing and its relationship to growth performance and meat quality. Archives of Animal Breeding. 49:4-17.

Kristensen, L., Therkildsen, M., Aaslyng, M.D., Oksbjerg, N., and Ertbjerg, P. 2004. Compensatory growth improves meat tenderness in gilts but not in barrows. J. Anim. Sci. 82: 3617-3624.

Kristensen, L., Therkildsen, M., Riis,B., Sørensen, M.T., Oksbjerg, N., Purslow, P.P., and Ertbjerg, P. Dietary-induced changes of muscle growth rate in pigs: Effects on in vivo and postmortem muscle proteolysis and meat quality. J. Anim. Sci. 80:2862-2871.

Pearce, K.L., Rosenvold, K., Andersen, H.J., and Hopkins, D.L. 2011. Water distribution and mobility in meat during the conversion of muscle to meat and ageing and the impacts on fresh meat quality attributes – A review. Meat Science 89:111-124.

Course homepage: not yet

Course assessment:

The performance of the student’s participation during teaching (lectures and group work etc.), and during a final plenary discussion on key elements of the course will be monitored. The students will be evaluated passed/not passed.


Department of Food Science

Special comments on this course:

The course is in the borderline of Animal Science and Meat science.

The fee for copying educational materials will be €150. The institute will provide help to find appropriate accommodation for participants and arrangement for lunch. Expenses related with accommodation and lunch and transport is not included in the fee.


20 - 30 April 2015 


Aarhus University, Department of Food Science

Blichers Allé 20 P.O 50

DK-8830 Tjele

Denmark (Rooms can be rented for the period)


Deadline for registration is 3 February 2015. Information regarding admission will be sent out one week after registration date. 


If you have any questions, please contact Senior Scientist Niels Oksbjerg,

Comments on content: 
Revised 16.05.2017