Effects of Outdoor Access on Growth Performance, Carcass Composition and Meat Characteristics of Broiler Chickens

According to a Chinese study, growth performance and carcass yield were not affected by the birds having access to an outdoor area but some aspects of meat quality were better for free-range birds. The longer the birds had outdoor access, the better the appearance and quality of the meat.
calendar icon 25 March 2013
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In a paper published recently in Poultry Science, X. Chen from the Ministry of Agriculture in Guangzhou, China, together with co-authors there and at WENs Group in Yunfu explain that the aim of their study was to investigate the effects of outdoor access on the growth performance and meat quality of broiler chickens.

Thirty-five-day-old female broilers were divided into three groups with six replicates of 124 birds each:

  • birds reared indoors (control group)
  • birds reared with outdoor access since 36 days of age (35-day group) and
  • birds reared with outdoor access since 71 days of age (70-day group).

The results showed that outdoor access had no effect on growth performance, carcass yield, meat yield, muscle protein content, muscle fiber characteristics or water-holding capacity (P>0.05).

Chickens from the outdoor access groups had a better appearance and degree of evenness. Birds in the outdoor access groups had a significantly lower lung percentage than birds in the control group (P<0.05), whereas the kidney percentage of the 35-day group was significantly lower than that of the control group (P<0.05).

The meat of chickens in the 35-day group had higher L* values than that of the control group (P<0.05).

Compared with rearing indoors, outdoor access significantly increased the shear force of the breast muscle in both the 35-day and 70-day group (P<0.05) and decreased the fat content of the thigh muscle in the case of 35-day group (P<0.05).

Birds in the 35-day group also had lower fat content in their thigh muscles than did the birds in the 70-day group (P<0.05). The thigh muscles of the birds in the 35-day group showed lower levels of MUFA and higher levels of PUFA than those of the control group and 70-day group (P<0.05).

Outdoor access had no effect on growth performance and yield traits but could improve the meat quality, concluded the researchers. They added that birds reared with outdoor access from 36 days of age had better appearance and meat quality than those with outdoor access from 71 days of age.


Chen X., W. Jiang, H.Z. Tan, G.F. Xu, X.B. Zhang, S. Wei and X.Q. Wang. 2013. Effects of outdoor access on growth performance, carcass composition, and meat characteristics of broiler chickens. Poult. Sci. 92(2):435-443. doi: 10.3382/ps.2012-02360

Further Reading

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March 2013

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