Superficial and deep changes of histology, texture and particle size distribution in broiler wooden breast muscle during refrigerated storage

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Recently the poultry industry faced an emerging muscle abnormality termed wooden breast (WB), the prevalence of which has dramatically increased in the past few years. Considering the incomplete knowledge concerning this condition and the lack of information on possible variations due to the intra-fillet sampling locations (superficial vs. deep position) and aging of the samples, this study aimed at investigating the effect of 7-d storage of broiler breast muscles on histology, texture, and particle size distribution, evaluating whether the sampling position exerts a relevant role in determining the main features of WB. With regard to the histological observations, severe myodegeneration accompanied by accumulation of connective tissue was observed within the WB cases, irrespective of the intra-fillet sampling position. No changes in the histological traits took place during the aging in either the normal or the WB samples. As to textural traits, although a progressive tenderization process took place during storage (P ≤ 0.001), the differences among the groups were mainly detected when raw meat rather than cooked was analyzed, with the WB samples exhibiting the highest (P ≤ 0.001) 80% compression values. In spite of the increased amount of connective tissue components in the WB cases, their thermally labile cross-links will account for the similar compression and shear-force values as normal breast cases when measured on cooked samples. Similarly, the enlargement of extracellular matrix and fibrosis might contribute in explaining the different fragmentation patterns observed between the superficial and the deep layer in the WB samples, with the superficial part exhibiting a higher amount of larger particles and an increase in particles with larger size during storage, compared to normal breasts.

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