Feed efficiency measures and their relationships with production and meat quality traits in slower growing broilers

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Feed consumption accounts for the major cost of broiler production. Improving the efficiency of feed utilization is a primary goal in breeding strategies, although few studies have focused on slower growing broilers. Here, we recorded the feed intake (FI) during the fast-growing period (d 56 to 76) and measured the live weight, body measurements, carcass characteristics, and intramuscular fat (IMF) content of Chinese yellow broilers. Then, the residual feed intake (RFI) and feed conversion ratio (FCR) were calculated for each individual. Pair-wise phenotypic correlations were subsequently calculated between feed efficiency traits and others. Finally, we separately selected the more efficient individuals based on RFI and FCR values to evaluate the impacts on the traits of FI, growth, carcass characteristics, and meat quality. The results showed higher correlations between FCR and production traits than with RFI, while RFI showed a moderate and positive phenotypic correlation with abdominal fat. FCR was weakly correlated with FI and slightly positively correlated with IMF content. The correlation coefficient between RFI and FI was 0.62, and that between RFI and IMF content was close to zero. Without increasing FI, decreasing FCR could effectively enhance the growth rate and market weight with no adverse effect on meat quality. In contrast, by improving RFI, FI and abdominal fat mass were significantly reduced and thus increased the yield with no unfavorable effects on meat quality. In consideration of consumer preference and overall economical benefits, RFI is a more suitable index to improve feed efficiency in slower growing broilers.

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