Transfer of bioactive compounds from pasture to meat in organic free-range chickens

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The aim of this study was to analyze the transfer of bioactive compounds from the pasture to the body and meat of organic free-range chickens and to verify the effect of these compounds on the oxidative processes of the meat. Starting at 21 d of age, 100 male naked-neck birds were divided into two homogeneous groups: an indoor group (0.12 m2/bird) and an outdoor group (0.12 m2/bird indoor and 10 m2/bird of forage paddock). At slaughter (81 d of age), blood samples were collected, and the carcasses were stored for 24 h at 4°C (20 birds/group). The grass samples had higher values of carotenoids, tocopherols, and flavonoids respect to standard feed (based on dry matter comparison). The polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) content was also greater in grass, especially the n-3 series (so named because its first double bond occurs after the third carbon atom counting from the methyl at the end of the molecule). The antioxidant profile of the grass improved the antioxidant status of the crop and gizzard contents in the outdoor chickens. The higher antioxidant intake resulted in a higher plasma concentration of antioxidants in outdoor birds; thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARs) and the antioxidant capacity of the plasma were also better in the outdoor than the indoor group. The meat of the outdoor birds had higher levels of antioxidants, mainly due to the higher amount of tocopherols and tocotrienols. Despite the higher antioxidant protection in the drumstick of the outdoor group, the TBARs value was greater, probably due to the kinetic activity of birds, the higher percentage of PUFAs, and the peroxidability index. In conclusion, grazing improved the nutritional value of the meat (PUFA n-3 and the ratio between n-6 and n-3 PUFA) with a minor negative effect on the oxidative stability. Suitable strategies to reduce such negative effects (e.g., reduction of kinetic activity in the last days of rearing) should be studied.

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