First results on basic chicken meat quality traits from 18 European production systems

One of the challenges of the INTAQT project was to collect chicken meat samples (breast and thigh), liver and droppings from 90 farms representing 18 different European farming systems (5 farms per system). This was carried out in 5 countries (Belgium, France, Italy, Poland and Switzerland). This required considerable logistical effort to characterize the typology of the farms and measure the welfare of the animals at the end of rearing, recover the meat and liver from the slaughterhouse, transfer it to the laboratories responsible for the initial analyses of fresh meat (presence of visual defects, pH, colour, drip loss, NIR measurements, etc.) but also to prepare and package the samples for dispatch to the various laboratories responsible for subsequent chemical and physico-chemical analyses.

In order to standardize practices (sampling, preparation, initial measurements), a single protocol was drawn up and shared between all partners by the WP2 and WP3 leaders. Colleagues from the INRAE/Université de Tours BOA research unit also produced a series of videos describing all the procedures.

Videos cover sample preparation and the various measurements carried out on fresh or cooked meat, namely: ultimate pH, L*a*b* colour parameters, measurement of drip and cooking losses, and Warner-Bratzler shear strength of cooked breast meat.

The collection of chicken samples took place between 2022 and 2023, as some countries, such as France and Belgium, had to postpone their on-farm survey and collection due to the avian flu epidemic.

In the end, the objective was reached by all countries, and the first laboratory analyses were able to get underway. The INRAE/university of Tours BOA Research Unit, was tasked with carrying out the proximal analyses, i.e., determining the protein, lipid and water content of the breast and thigh meat. They also measured the heminic pigment content (i.e., iron content) and susceptibility to lipid peroxidation (through the TBARS index) of these same cuts (breast and thigh). On the sensory and technological front, they were also responsible for determining cooking losses, marinade uptake in a brining-cooking process, and the shear strength of cooked meat.

All laboratory analyses were finalized in the spring of 2024, and the first results were presented at the 3rd annual meeting held from May 14 to 16 in Reggio Emilia, in the presence of most of the French, Belgian, Swiss and Italian colleagues involved in setting up the farm network and collecting products from slaughterhouses.

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