In pursuit of a better broiler: carcass traits and muscle myopathies in conventional and slower-growing strains of broiler chickens
Selection for accelerated growth rate and high breast yield in broiler chickens have been associated with an increase in myopathies, including wooden breast (WB) and white striping (WS). To investigate effects of growth rate on carcass traits and incidence of myopathies, 14 strains were evaluated, encompassing 2 conventional(CONV; strains B and C: ADG0-48 > 60 g/d)and 12 slower-growing (SL) strains. The latter were categorized based on growth rate: FAST (strains F, G, I and M; ADG0-62=53−55 g/d), MOD (strains E, H, O and S; ADG0-62=50-51 g/d), and SLOW (strains D, J, K and N; ADG0-62<50 g/d). In a randomized incomplete block design, 7,216 mixed-sex birds were equally allocated into 164 pens (44 birds/pen; 30 kg/m2), with each strain represented in 8 to 12 pens over 2 to 3 production cycles. From each pen, 4 males and 4 females were processed at 2 Target Weights (TWs) based on their expected time to reach 2.1 kg BW (TW 1: 34 d for CONV; 48 d for SL strains) and 3.2 kg BW (TW 2: 48 d for CONV; 62 d for SL strains). Weights and yields for the carcass, breast, drumsticks, thighs, and wings were obtained; breast fillets were assessed to determine the presence and severity of WB and WS. At both TWs, breast yield was higher as growth rate increased (P < 0.001), with CONV having greater breast yield than other categories. Strain F had the greatest breast yield at both TWs (P < 0.001) within the FAST category. At TW 2, CONV had the greatest incidence of WB and WS (P < 0.001). However, within FAST, strain F had the greatest incidence of myopathies (P < 0.001) at both TWs, exhibiting values as high or as greater than CONV birds. The incidence of WB and WS in strains with differing growth rates but high breast meat yield suggests that the latter may play a major role in the occurrence of these myopathies.