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Poult Sci. 2003 Dec;82(12):1829-38.

Variation of chicken technological meat quality in relation to genotype and preslaughter stress conditions.

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Station de Recherches Avicoles, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique-Centre de Tours, 37380 Nouzilly, France.


The present study was aimed at estimating the genetic variability between lines of breast and thigh meat quality (pH decline, color, drip loss, and curing-cooking yield) by comparing a slow-growing French label-type line (SGL) and a fast-growing standard line (FGL) of chickens exposed to different preslaughter stress conditions. The birds were slaughtered under optimal conditions or after exposure to 2 h of transport or acute-heat stress (2 h at 35 degrees C). Relationships between meat quality and stress sensitivity were investigated by measuring struggle during shackling and tonic immobility (TI) duration, 1 wk before slaughter, as an indicator of the basal level of fear of the birds. Although most of the meat quality indicators varied between the 2 lines, differences were muscle dependent. In concordance with a lower ultimate pH, curing-cooking yield of thigh meat was decreased for the FGL birds. In contrast, these birds had a higher curing-cooking yield and a lower drip loss of breast meat resulting from a less rapid pH decline in this muscle compared with SGL birds. Thigh meat characteristics were influenced by both preslaughter stresses, but no significant effects were detected for breast meat. The main effect of heat stress in thigh meat was a decrease of the ultimate pH and led to paler color and lower curing-cooking yield; opposite effects were obtained for transport. Breast meat was much more sensitive to physical activity of birds on the shackle line. Longer durations of wing flapping on the shackle line gave more rapid initial pH decline. Whatever the line, no relationship between TI duration and meat quality characteristics or activity was observed. The present study suggested that SGL birds could be at disadvantage due to more struggle during shackling and accelerated postmortem glycolysis, which is detrimental to the quality of breast meat.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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