We are all familiar with the concept of chickens starting out on a farm and ending as a piece of meat on our forks, but what about everything occurring in between? The short cycle of broiler production renders the chain from farm to fork exposed to severe stressors that trigger oxidative stress. The main goal of the producer is to produce high-quality, wholesome food for consumption. Advancements in broiler genetics have led to the uprise of meat quality issues such as drip and cooking losses, which are described as excessive water losses from meat due to pre- and post-slaughter chemical and physical changes. This issue has become worrying, since it influences product yield, quality, and palatability traits of broiler meat.
Dr Cibele Torres, a poultry researcher and nutritionist at Zinpro, discusses the importance of maintaining good poultry meat quality while birds are exposed to numerous stressors. Oxidative stress is triggered by the production of free radicals when birds are challenged through increased environmental temperatures, stocking densities, vaccine reactions, and reduced feed intake. Free radicals are harmful substances that cause damage to protein cell membranes. These substances generate expensive moisture losses from the surface of meat, reducing product shelf-life and appearance. They are not only produced post-slaughter, but also while the animal is alive, increasing the incidence of a weakened link in the chain of production.
Through nutrition, the proper balance between free radicals and antioxidants within the animal body can have a positive effect on poultry meat quality, resulting in higher returns for fresh and cooked meat producers. Trace minerals such as zinc and selenium, as well as vitamin E, are crucial for constructing the antioxidant defense system. During periods of stress, birds extract stored nutrients to defend and neutralise free radical production. Thereby, providing more bioavailable micro elements to poultry diets would enable adequate reserve build-up in the body to support the antioxidant defense system pre- and post-slaughter.
Read more about the synergetic effect of selenium and vitamin E and Why Oxidative Stress Matters for Poultry Meat Quality in this blog post by Dr Cibelle Torres, who earned her Veterinary MD and MS in animal sciences from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, and her PhD in poultry science from University of Alberta in Canada. She conducts poultry research and provides technical services to Zinpro customers in the Middle East, Europe, and Northern Africa (MENA), South Africa, and Russia.