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Woody Breast and Oxidative Stress


by Koushik De, M.V.Sc, Executive Technical Services Manager for South Central Asia

Woody breast is a degenerative condition affecting chicken breasts that impacts meat quality and costs the poultry industry millions annually. Research from NOVUS found that combinations of feed additives can positively impact this financially damaging condition.

The ideal solution for mitigating woody breast offers repeatable success in reducing cases of the challenge without sacrificing broiler performance. Poultry producers can implement strategies to reduce woody breast, but results from these methods can vary and sometimes negatively impact key performance parameters1 such as:

  • Growth rate
  • Slaughter weight
  • Breast yield

Correlation Between Woody Breast, Oxidative Stress

A NOVUS study2 evaluated various dietary interventions on the incidence of woody breast particularly when birds are most exposed to oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body3. Free radicals are molecules containing oxygen that can react with other molecules and cause damage. Incidence of woody breast in broilers is associated with oxidative stress4 – which can be caused by heat stress or when feeding poor-quality fat.

What research suggests is that when birds are pushed to grow larger in a shorter period of time muscle fibers grow but the circulatory system, which supplies nutrients, cannot keep pace with the growth resulting in circulatory insufficiency. When circulation is hampered, free radicals or other metabolic waste in the tissue can’t be removed properly, leading to a build-up of free radicals in the tissue. At the same time, the level of antioxidants is also lower, resulting in increased oxidative stress building up the tissue. Free radicals in the tissue damage the protein lipids and even the DNA in the muscle resulting in degenerative changes, as we see in woody breast.

Woody Breast Research Results

Researchers took birds experiencing oxidative stress and evaluated the impact on meat quality when feeding bis-chelated organic trace minerals of copper, manganese, and zinc (as MINTREX® Bis-Chelated Trace Minerals) with or without dietary antioxidants and organic selenium (as ZORIEN® SeY 3000 Prilled Feed Additive).

Birds fed a diet of fat combined with bis-chelated copper, manganese, and zinc and a dietary antioxidant showed reduced oxidative stress in muscle tissue, resulting in a significant decrease in incidence of woody breast by 22%. Fillets unaffected by woody breast were increased by 13% in birds experiencing heat stress that were fed the bis-chelated minerals. In addition, other poultry carcass quality defects were reduced, including:

  • Tibial head lesions
  • Skin scratches
  • Breast blisters
  • Breast shear strength

The study showed combining bis-chelated copper, manganese, and zinc with a dietary antioxidant and organic selenium yielded even higher increases in normal fillets at 38%.

To learn more about how to help broilers build better meat, click here to contact a Novus representative today.


  1. Kuttappan et al., 2016
  2. Kuttappan et al. 2021
  3. Surai, 2015; Petracci et al, 2019
  4. Soglia et al. (2016a)
chicken farm with feeders

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