The influence of the season and market class of broiler chickens on breast meat quality traits.
ABSTRACT The influence of the season and market class of broiler chickens on breast meat quality traits was determined on a total of 18 flocks reared and processed under commercial conditions. According to the Italian poultry production system the following classes of birds were considered: light size (1.2 kg of carcass weight; n = 90) and medium size (1.8 kg of carcass weight; n = 90), represented by females slaughtered at 40 and 52 d old, respectively, whereas heavy size were 57-d-old male broilers (2.4 kg of carcass weight; n = 90). After slaughter, 15 carcasses per flock (n = 270) were randomly collected during winter (n = 135) and summer (n = 135) seasons and used at 24 h postmortem to determine breast (pectoralis major) meat color (lightness, redness, and yellowness), pH, drip and cook loss, as well as Allo-Kramer (AK) shear values. Furthermore, pectoralis minor muscles were used to determine lipid, protein, moisture, and ash content. Finally, because the flocks included white- and yellow-skinned broilers, the color of the carcass skin was measured to assess the relationship between skin and raw breast meat color. With regard to the season, breast meat from birds slaughtered during summer exhibited a paler and less red color, lower pH, higher drip and cook losses, lower AK-shear, and a higher content of moisture and a lower content of protein and ash. In respect to medium and heavy birds, light broilers produced breast meat with higher values of redness, lower pH and cook loss, higher AK-shear values, and a higher content of moisture and ash. Finally, a positive correlation (r = +0.92; P < or = 0.001) between skin and breast meat yellowness was found. These results indicate that during summer, broiler breast meat undergoes a depression of its functionality and quality. Moreover, the market class of birds also determined some differences in breast meat quality attributes.