Growth performance, carcass characteristics and meat quality were evaluated from 320 pigs (PIC C22 x L326) fed either a control diet (6.5 g lysine kg-1) or diets containing added creatine monohydrate (CMH). Pigs (initially 53.5 kg) were sorted by weight, gender and ancestry in a randomized complete block design and allotted to one of four dietary treatments with eight replicates. Pigs were fed a sorghum-soybean meal diet until 30 days pre-slaughter (87.2 kg), when dietary treatments were initiated. Experimental treatments consisted of: (1) a control diet; (2) control diet with 3 g CMH per pig per day for 30 days (maintenance); (3) 25 g CMH per pig per day for 5 days followed by 3 g CMH per pig per day for the next 25 days (early load); (4) or 25 g CMH per pig per day for 5 days before slaughter (late load). Average market weight was 112.4 kg. Feeding CMH did not affect average daily gain (ADG), average daily feed intake (ADFI), or feed efficiency (F/G). Average backfat, 10th rib fat depth, longissimus muscle area and percentage lean also were not affected by feeding CMH. Visual color and marbling scores were not affected at 24 h or 14 days postmortem; however, the mean firmness score of longissimus from all pigs fed CMH was greater (P < 0.05) at 24 h and 14 days postmortem than from pigs fed the control diet. Percentages of moisture, protein and lipid in longissimus muscle and purge loss and Warner-Bratzler shear force values at 14 days postmortem were not affected by treatment. Percentage drip loss of longissimus at 24 h postmortem was less (P < 0.05) for pigs fed maintenance and late load CMH compared to pigs fed early load CMH (4.06 and 4.15% versus 5.76%). Results for pigs fed early load CMH were inconsistent compared to pigs fed maintenance or late load CMH. Longissimus from maintenance CMH pigs also tended to have less drip loss than that from control pigs (4.06% versus 5.31%). At 14 days postmortem, the mean drip loss from pigs fed CMH tended to be less (P < 0.06) compared to control pigs. These results suggest that added CMH does not affect finishing pig growth performance but may increase longissimus muscle firmness at 24 h and decrease drip loss at 14 days postmortem. Equivocal results were achieved by feeding 3 g CMH per pig per day for 30 days (maintenance) compared with feeding greater amounts of CMH for short periods; therefore, this supplementation strategy might be most economical if this technology were to be applied. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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