During the past few years, there has been an increasing prevalence of broiler breast muscle abnormalities, such as white striping (WS) and wooden breast conditions. More recently, a new muscular abnormality termed as spaghetti meat (SM) because of the altered structural integrity of the Pectoralis major muscle often associated with WS has emerged. Thus, this study aimed at evaluating the effects of WS and SM conditions, occurring alone or combined within the same P. major muscle, on meat quality traits and muscle histology. In two replications, 96 P. major muscles were classified into four classes: normal (N), WS, SM and WS/SM. The whole fillet was used for weight assessment and morphometric measurements, then each sample was cut in order to separate the superficial layer from the deep one and used to evaluate proximate composition, histological features, nuclear magnetic resonance relaxation times, functional properties and both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic proteins profile. Fillets affected by WS and SM abnormalities exhibited higher weights and increased thickness and length. SM condition was associated with a relevant decrease in protein content coupled with a significant increase in moisture level, whereas fat content was affected only by the simultaneous presence of WS. Histological evaluations revealed that abnormal samples were characterized by several degenerative aspects that almost completely concerned the superficial layer of the fillets. White striped fillets exhibited necrosis and lysis of fibers, fibrosis, lipidosis, loss of cross striation and vacuolar degeneration. Moreover, SM samples were characterized by poor fiber uniformity and a progressive rarefaction of the endo- and peri-mysial connective tissue, whereas WS/SM fillets showed intermediate histological features. Nuclear magnetic resonance relaxation analysis revealed a higher proportion of extra-myofibrillar water in the superficial section of all the abnormal fillets, especially in SM samples, which consequently led to a reduction of the water holding capacity of meat. As for functional properties, abnormal fillets exhibited a lower protein solubility and higher ultimate pH values on both the superficial and deep sections. Although abnormal fillets exhibited higher yellowness values, no relevant effect on meat color was observed. The occurrence of WS and SM abnormalities led to increased carbonylation levels and more intense proteolytic processes. Overall, muscle abnormalities mainly affect the superficial layer of P. major muscle and particularly the occurrence of SM myopathy seems to implicate a more pronounced modification of meat quality traits than the mere presence of WS.
Keywords: abnormalities; chicken breast; meat quality; spaghetti meat; white striping.