Selection of Dam Line Improves Turkey Meat Quality

US - When it comes to meat quality, not all turkey breasts are created equal. Recent work by poultry scientists at Ohio State University has shown that a number of factors impact turkey breast meat quality and that genetic selection plays an important role in determining those factors.
calendar icon 23 November 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

According to the Poultry Science Association (PSA), moreover, the same researchers, led by Dr Sandra Velleman, a professor in Ohio State's Department of Animal Sciences, have also shown that current breeding approaches in the commercial turkey industry – while wildly successful in many respects – are not optimal for enhancing meat quality because they focus solely on the sire line for inherited traits. But according to Dr Velleman's group's findings, breast muscle quality is determined, in part, by the dam line. Therefore, commercial turkey producers should include both the sire and dam lines in the selection process as they seek to improve the overall taste qualities of turkey breast meat.

Dr Velleman explained: "This finding [about the influence of the dam line] came as a surprise to us, and I suspect it will surprise almost everyone in the commercial turkey industry as well, since current practices dictate that one looks at the sire line for heritable qualities related to increased body weight at a given age and muscling.

"The dam line, on the other hand, historically has been used only in selecting for the purpose of improving growth and reproduction traits. Our results show that, contrary to these longstanding practices, the aspects of breast muscle that impact taste are, genetically, passed on through the dam.

"The good news is that by incorporating thinking about the dam line into their genetic programmes, the industry should be able to begin producing even higher quality, tastier turkey breast meat," she added.

The research conducted by Dr Velleman's group has shown that breast meat taste is impacted by differences in breast muscle fibres, the spacing between the fibres and other factors. These characteristics, when optimised, will potentially increase water-holding capacity, which will result in a juicier meat product.

PSA president, Dr Mike Lilburn, said: "The work being conducted by Dr Velleman and her team is providing an important tool to the commercial turkey industry for selecting birds having a muscle structure favorable to higher meat quality. That means that, while probably nothing will ever surpass our gilded childhood memories of turkey dinners of Thanksgivings past, future Thanksgivings – not to mention turkey sandwiches around the year, and other dishes using turkey breast meat – will likely taste better than ever. Dr Velleman's is a great example of how basic poultry research often turns out to have practical and wide-ranging implications for the poultry industry and the consumer."

Dr Velleman's team's work was published in a series of articles on the maternal inheritance of breast muscle morphology in PSA's journal, Poultry Science, from 2003 to 2009.

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