Perinatal flavor learning and adaptation to being weaned: All the pig needs is smell

October 20, 2011

Weaning can be a stressful time, but new research published in the Oct. 19 edition of the online journal PLoS ONE shows that the presence of familiar flavors in food, or even in the surrounding air, has positive effects on piglet growth, food uptake, and behavior upon weaning, suggesting reduced stress. In the study, pregnant sows were fed anise-flavored food for about two weeks before birth and three weeks after.

The piglets were then weaned and also exposed to the anise flavor, either through their food or air. Their resulting behavior and revealed that those exposed to the anise flavor both perinatally and post-weaning were less stressed than their non-flavor treated kin. Furthermore, simply smelling the familiar flavor was sufficient to elicit a favorable response.

The principle of "flavor learning" based on the mother's diet has been well established in a variety of contexts, but previous work by the authors, led by Marije Oostindjer at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, showed practically no effect of flavor treatment applied only postnatally. According to Dr. Oostindjer, the results are "still elusive after many years of research, and at the same time the research has applied value as it can increase health and welfare of newly weaned ."

Explore further: Study: Getting more shelf life out of milk

More information: Oostindjer M, Bolhuis JE, Simon K, van den Brand H, Kemp B (2011) Perinatal Flavour Learning and Adaptation to Being Weaned: All the Pig Needs Is Smell. PLoS ONE 6(10): e25318.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025318

Related Stories

Keeping beer fresher

June 2, 2008

Scientists in Venezuela are reporting an advance in the centuries-old effort to preserve the fresh taste that beer drinkers value more than any other characteristic of that popular beverage. Their study, which identifies ...

Sows ears and silk purses: Packing more flavor into modern pork

December 2, 2010

Perhaps you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but scientists are reporting progress in pulling off the same trick with the notoriously bland flavor of pork. They are reporting new insights into the biochemical differences ...

The short goodbye: Weaning foals

October 6, 2011

It is widely believed that being born is about the most stressful thing that can happen to anybody. But being weaned cannot be too far behind it in the list of traumatic experiences. Most humans come to terms with it eventually ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

A huge chunk of a tardigrade's genome comes from foreign DNA

November 23, 2015

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have sequenced the genome of the nearly indestructible tardigrade, the only animal known to survive the extreme environment of outer space, and found something ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.