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Acute heat stress-induced alterations in blood acid-base status and skeletal muscle membrane integrity in broiler chickens at two ages: implications for meat quality

Sandercock, D.A., Hunter, R.R., Nute, G.R., Mitchell, M.A., Hocking, P.M.
Poultry science 2001 v.80 no.4 pp. 418-425
broiler chickens, heat stress, ambient temperature, acid-base balance, body temperature, carbon dioxide, pH, blood plasma, creatine kinase, enzyme activity, breast muscle, weight, color, chicken meat, meat quality, sensory evaluation, flavor, texture, drip loss, juiciness, blood gases, alkali reserve
The effects of acute heat stress (AHS) on indices of respiratory thermoregulation and skeletal muscle damage (myopathy) were examined in broiler chickens at two ages (35 and 63 d of age); the relationships of these responses with changes in meat quality were assessed. Exposure to AHS significantly increased deep-body temperatures, panting-induced acid/base disturbances, and plasma creatine kinase (CK) activities, reflecting heat stress-induced myopathy (HSIM). The extent of the hyperthermia and disturbances in acid/base status and myopathy was significantly (P < 0.05) higher in the older birds. Consistent with AHS-induced alterations in thermoregulatory indices and muscle membrane integrity were changes in breast muscle glycolytic metabolism as indicated by lower muscle pH immediately posts-laughter (pH(i)), increased water loss, and increased incidence of breast muscle hemorrhages. Values of pH(i) were lower and hemorrhage scores greater in the AHS birds at 63 d; drip losses were significantly higher in the 35-d-old birds. Exposure to AHS did not affect breast meat eating quality, although overall reductions in flavor attributes were observed in the older birds. We concluded that exposure to AHS induced disturbances in blood acid/base status and had a detrimental effect upon skeletal muscle membrane integrity. Muscle from broilers exhibited an increased sensitivity to AHS exposure with age. Alterations in antemortem blood acid/base status and muscle membrane integrity induced by AHS were associated (though not necessarily causally) with adverse effects upon breast meat quality. It is recommended that preslaughter exposure of broiler chickens to AHS should be avoided in order to reduce alterations in muscle metabolism and membrane integrity and undesirable meat characteristics.