Incubation temperature and time of hatch impact broiler muscle growth and morphology

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The adult myogenic population of stem cells, called satellite cells, initially develop in late-term embryos. Satellite cells are the only myogenic cell that repair damaged myofibers and increase post-hatch growth. The objective of the current study was to determine if incubation temperatures and time of hatch impact growth and pectoralis major (p. major) muscle morphology. Eggs were incubated at a constant 37.8°C; however, from d 14 to 18, the eggs were subject to 39.5°C for 0, 3, or 12 h per day. Chicks were divided into early, mid, or late hatch groups based upon the time they emerged from the shell. Growth and feed efficiency were measured throughout the 63-day trial, while meat quality and muscle morphology were evaluated at the time of processing. The chicks incubated at an increased temperature for 12 h per d had reduced (P < 0.01) body weights throughout the trial compared to the 3 h treatment and control. The early hatch broilers were heavier (P < 0.01) at 63 d compared to mid and late hatch broilers. Chicks from the 12 h incubation treatment had an increased (P = 0.01) gain to feed ratio compared to the control. Broilers from the 12 h incubation treatment had lower (P < 0.01) p. major weights compared to the 0 and 3 h treatments. Early hatch broilers had heavier p. major weights (P < 0.01) compared to mid and late hatch groups. The 12 h incubation treatment also reduced the number of broilers with moderate to severe myopathic attributes compared to the control. Similarly, there were fewer late hatch birds with fibrotic and necrotic p. major muscles compared to the early hatch group. Together, these data demonstrate that altering incubation temperature is a feasible management strategy to improve muscle morphology without negatively impacting meat quality parameters.

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