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BMC Genetics  2008 

Chicken meat quality: genetic variability and relationship with growth and muscle characteristics

DOI: 10.1186/1471-2156-9-53

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Significant levels of heritability (averaging 0.3) were obtained for breast meat quality traits such as pH at 15 min post-slaughter, ultimate pH (pHu), color assessed by lightness L*, redness a* and yellowness b*, drip loss, thawing-cooking loss and shear-force. The rate of decrease in pH early post-mortem and the final pH of the meat were shown to be key factors of chicken meat quality. In particular, a decrease in the final pH led to paler, more exudative and tougher breast meat. The level of glycogen stored in breast muscle estimated by the Glycolytic Potential (GP) at slaughter time was shown to be highly heritable (h2 0.43). There was a very strong negative genetic correlation (rg) with ultimate meat pH (rg -0.97), suggesting a common genetic control for GP and pHu. While breast muscle weight was genetically positively correlated with fiber size (rg 0.76), it was negatively correlated with the level of glycogen stored in the muscle (rg -0.58), and as a consequence it was positively correlated with the final pH of the meat (rg 0.84).This genetic study confirmed that selection should be useful to improve meat characteristics of meat-type chickens without impairing profitability because no genetic conflict was detected between meat quality and meat quantity. Moreover, the results suggested relevant selection criteria such as ultimate pH, which is strongly related to color, water-holding capacity and texture of the meat in this heavy chicken line.As in other animal species, the technological quality of poultry meat is now of major importance, since poultry meat is nowadays usually consumed as cuts or as processed products rather than as whole carcasses. As already reported for pigs [1], technological quality refers to several meat properties, including water-holding capacity (i.e. drip loss during storage), intensity and homogeneity of color, firmness, shelf-life and processing yields. Meat quality is closely related to the decrease in muscle pH post-mortem. Rapid


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