An extensive rearing system (ERS) for poultry requires an outdoor run, which enhances the foraging activity of chickens. Slow-growing (SG) strains are more adapted to ERS than fast-growing (FG); and generally, have higher levels of bioactive compounds in their meat. The aim of this paper was to assess the storage efficiency of n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), tocols and carotenes in the meat of seven commercial SG genotypes (SG1-7). One hundred SG chicks/strain of both sexes were included and their walking activity (High- or Low-W) was classified: SG1-4, HW comprised more than 10% of the time budget, and SG5-7, less than 10% (LW). Chickens were reared in pens (4 pens/strain) with indoor (0.10 m2/bird) and outdoor (4 m2/bird) areas, and they were fed the same diet ad libitum (starter feed for 1–21 d, grower feed from 22 d to slaughter at 81 d). The chickens were weighed weekly; feed consumption and grass intake were also estimated. At 81 days of age, 32 chickens/genotype were selected on the basis of the average weight (1:1, M:F) and slaughtered. The breast, thigh and drumstick meat were excised from 30 carcasses/genotype, sampled and stored at -20°C until analysis. Nutrients (e.g., n-3, n-6, carotenes and tocols) of feed, grass and meat were analyzed. The storage efficiency of nutrients was estimated as the ratio between the amount deposited in the body muscles (OUT) and the dietary intake (feed and grass, IN). The genotype affected chickens foraging behavior and the intake of nutrients. For SG1, SG2 and SG3, more than 50% of the intake of n-3 came from grass, whereas in the other genotypes, less than 20%. Accordingly, chickens that foraged more showed better meat nutritional profiles (less fat, more n-3 and antioxidants), which, in ERS, was ascribed to grass ingestion. However, the storage efficiency of nutrients into meat was inversely correlated with the grass intake: strains with higher grass intake (SG1, SG2, and SG3) had lower storage rates. Several hypotheses were proposed to explain these trends.

Simona Mattioli, Alice Cartoni Mancinelli, Alessandro Dal Bosco, Claudia Ciarelli, Monica Guarino Amato, Elisa Angelucci, Diletta Chiattelli, Cesare Castellini
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