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Reducing woody breast and white striping in poultry meat with a dietary approach

Recent findings indicate that altering broiler chicken diets can help mitigate the severity of woody breast and white striping, two poultry meat quality issues that appear to be increasing in prevalence in many markets. A multitude of poultry researchers are exploring various approaches to eradicate these muscle myopathies. Novus International’s poultry scientists have recently concluded, based on several studies in both commercial and research environments, that MINTREX® trace minerals fed in combination with an antioxidant feed preservative, can significantly reduce the severity of woody breast and white striping in broilers by up to 50 percent. As a result, Novus has identified a proven nutritional strategy to help mitigate severe incidences of these muscle myopathies in broiler chickens.

While these two meat quality issues do not pose any known risks to the food supply or consumers, they significantly impact producers. Severe cases can result in poultry meat of lower quality, leading to additional processing costs, downgrading of products and the potential condemnation of meat. It is estimated that the incidence of woody breast alone in poultry meat can be attributed to over $200 million USD of annual economic loss in the U.S. (Kuttappan et al., 2016). Finally, producers have actionable options to help protect against this loss. What leads to the incidence of the issue remains unclear, but producers can be reassured that the impact can be greatly reduced.

Reducing muscle myopathies

A single solution to eradicate woody breast and white striping and preserve profits has been difficult to define because the exact cause remains unclear. It is known that some birds tend to show more frequent and severe cases, but the underlying cause has not been confirmed. However, industry’s leading researchers have seen evidence that circulatory insufficiency and oxidative stress in the muscle are associated with the occurrence of these muscle abnormalities (Abasht et al. 2016).

Woody breast, named for its hard or “wooden” appearance, is the most severe and troublesome myopathy as it significantly impacts meat texture and taste, therefore impacting consumer acceptance. White striping is another type of myopathy where connective tissue creates white “stripes” of varying thickness across the breast muscle, but this still affects meat quality. The industry has developed a rating system in which each abnormality is scored based on severity from 0 (no indication of myopathy) to 3 (severe).

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Often appearing together, these costly abnormalities lead to loss of protein structural integrity. Knowing this, Novus’s research and development teams conducted several trials and unveiled the potential for preventing these deformities.

Dr. Vivek Kuttappan, physiology research scientist at Novus said, “One of the most challenging aspects of creating a prevention strategy for broiler flocks experiencing high incidences of myopathy is finding and interpreting research. Because this area still requires a great deal of study, many new options and products advertised as potential solutions lack scientific support. Novus developed a recommended approach based on years of research, worked to prove hypotheses with our products and now has actionable plans for obtaining real results.

After analyzing several studies, conducted in both research and commercial facilities, Novus’s two-pronged nutritional strategy was developed: 1) support healthy muscle growth and development and 2) reduce oxidative stress in the tissue.

To accomplish these objectives, highly bioavailable feed supplements were introduced to a well-balanced broiler diet with the intent to measure the reduction of the myopathies. Due to the natural processes surrounding muscle tissue growth and oxidative stress in broilers, trace minerals and antioxidants were selected due to their proven positive effects on bodyweight improvement and growth rates. Studies indicated that MINTREX® highly bioavailable chelated trace minerals, could help reduce the amount of damage to broiler breast tissue from stress or other causes and help in the regeneration process if damage occurs. It was then hypothesized that if MINTREX® supports healthy muscle growth, it could help reduce the development of abnormal tissue also. Other research subsequently confirmed that broilers fed MINTREX® had significant reduced meat quality issues such as woody breast and white striping when compared against birds fed inorganic trace minerals (ITM). Five trials comparing ITM of various components against Novus’s organic trace minerals demonstrated MINTREX® was able to reduce the incidence of severy woody breast, with an average decrease of 44 percent (Figure 1). Two of those trials, including also an assessment of the impact on white striping, recorded a reduction in severe white striping by 46.1 percent (Figure 2).

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MINTREX® trace minerals contain Zn, Cu or Mn minerals bound to an organic ligand, 2 molecules of methionine hydroxyl analogue (hydroxyl methylthiobutanoic acid, HMTBa). This strong chelate structure allows the mineral to arrive intact at the absorption site in the small intestine, providing better utilization of the mineral by the animal. Consequently, birds are better equipped with the nutritional tools for optimal muscle growth and development. In this case, the stimulation of healthy processes allows broiler chickens to better handle obstacles to tissue growth and helps prevent the development of myopathies. In addition, antioxidants have a known role in reducing stress in muscle tissues. Therefore, an antioxidant feed preservative was added to broiler diets to determine if it also influenced meat quality.

The studies showed the increased support to growing healthy muscle tissue that MINTREX® offers was compounded when used in combination with an antioxidant feed preservative (Figure 1 & 2).

Economic impact

Woody breast and white striping are particularly costly to the broiler market as they affect one of the most valuable cuts from the carcass: breast fillets. These breast fillets can exhibit inflammatory tissues such as “thick gelatinous yellow fluid and/or hemorrhagic tissues.”, areas, which are to be removed and


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References available upon request

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