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Thermal manipulation of the embryo modifies the physiology and body composition of broiler chickens reared in floor pens without affecting breast meat processing quality

Abstract : Selection in broiler chickens has increased muscle mass without similar development of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, resulting in limited ability to sustain high ambient temperatures. The aim of this study was to determine the long-lasting effects of heat manipulation of the embryo on the physiology, body temperature (Tb), growth rate and meat processing quality of broiler chickens reared in floor pens. Broiler chicken eggs were incubated in control conditions (37.8 degrees C, 56% relative humidity; RH) or exposed to thermal manipulation (TM; 12 h/d, 39.5 degrees C, 65% RH) from d 7 to 16 of embryogenesis. This study was planned in a pedigree design to identify possible heritable characters for further selection of broiler chickens to improve thermotolerance. Thermal manipulation did not affect hatchability but resulted in lower Tb at hatching and until d 28 post-hatch, with associated changes in plasma thyroid hormone concentrations. At d 34, chickens were exposed to a moderate heat challenge (5 h, 32 degrees C). Greater O-2 saturation and reduced CO2 partial pressure were observed (P < 0.05) in the venous blood of TM than in that of control chickens, suggesting long-term respiratory adaptation. At slaughter age, TM chickens were 1.4% lighter and exhibited 8% less relative abdominal fat pad than controls. Breast muscle yield was enhanced by TM, especially in females, but without significant change in breast meat characteristics (pH, color, drip loss). Plasma glucose/insulin balance was affected (P < 0.05) by thermal treatments. The heat challenge increased the heterophil/lymphocyte ratio in controls (P < 0.05) but not in TM birds, possibly reflecting a lower stress status in TM chickens. Interestingly, broiler chickens had moderate heritability estimates for the plasma triiodothyronine/thyroxine concentration ratio at d 28 and comb temperature during the heat challenge on d 34 (h(2) > 0.17). In conclusion, TM of the embryo modified the physiology of broilers in the long term as a possible adaptation for heat tolerance, without affecting breast meat quality. This study highlights the value of 2 new heritable characters involved in thermoregulation for further broiler selection.
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Thomas Loyau, Cécile Berri, Larbi Bedrani, Sonia Metayer-Coustard, Christophe Praud, et al.. Thermal manipulation of the embryo modifies the physiology and body composition of broiler chickens reared in floor pens without affecting breast meat processing quality. Journal of Animal Science, American Society of Animal Science, 2013, 91 (8), pp.3674-3685. ⟨10.2527/jas.2013-6445⟩. ⟨hal-02647671⟩

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