The role of nutrition is now a focus in the search for tools and strategies to counter the impact of woody breast, a condition found primarily in fast-growing, heavy broilers.

The exact cause of woody breast, a muscle abnormality affecting the texture and color of chicken breast meat, is currently unknown – although some researchers point to selection for increased growth rates and meat yield.

The implication of this phenomenon, however, is significant throughout the entire chain of poultry production, from the producer down to the consumer, according to Dr. Tara York, AB Vista Technical Manager for the U.S. and Canada.

“We are presented with a situation where consumer complaints have increased based on the texture of the meat – and that results in financial impacts across the chain, back as far as the producer.

“In a market where demand for white breast meat is high, as it is in the U.S., being able to maintain the increase in growth rate and breast meat yield without negatively impacting muscle tissue development is important. Research is turning to nutrition to see what role it can play in helping reduce woody breast, while maintaining efficient and healthy growth – for the bird and the business.”

Dr. York says the most recent unpublished studies suggest that dietary manipulations could help reduce the severity of woody breast, through improving the bird’s ability to handle environmental and metabolic stress.

An analysis of this research will be presented at the upcoming International Phytate Summit (IPS3), convened by the University of Illinois, the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science at the University of Arkansas, and AB Vista.

With a theme of The Value Chain of Phytate Destruction, the summit, to be held in November, will bring together a group of experts to focus on strategies for formulating with minerals and amino acids in the presence of phytate and phytase and will include discussions on woody breast.

Dr. York says the academic conference, and subsequent regional follow-up events, are aimed at understanding how nutrition can help the industry to overcome current challenges such as woody breast.

“As an industry the more we expect from the broiler, the more we need to invest to ensure we accomplish our goal in an effective manner.”