Meat Characteristics of Standard, Maize-Fed, Free-Range or Organic Broiler Chickens

Abstract: 1.The effects of rearing chickens using standard, maize-fed, free-range or organic production systems on meat quality and sensory characteristics were evaluated. The standard system used either Ross or Cobb birds with a slaughter age of approximately 40 d, the other systems in the trial used Hubbard birds with considerably older slaughter ages, up to 72 d in the case of organic systems. 2.Paired breast fillets from 120 birds, 30 from each rearing system, were used. The meat quality variables, ultimate pH, colour coordinates L*, a*, b* and water-holding capacity were measured and taste panel assessments were made using 8-point category scales of texture, juiciness, abnormal flavour, flavour liking and overall flavour. 3.There were significant differences between rearing systems, with fillet muscles from birds grown under the standard system having a higher ultimate pH. Differences were also seen in colour with fillets from birds reared under a standard system having a smaller hue angle than those grown using the maize-fed system which had the highest. 4. Fillets from birds reared in the standard system were rated by the taste panel as more tender and juicy. There were no significant differences in chicken flavour. Based on hedonic assessments of flavour liking and overall liking, by a small panel of assessors, meat from birds produced in the standard system was most preferred and that from organic systems the least preferred. Meat from free-range and maize-fed systems was intermediate in preference. This result reveals a trend, but does not infer consumer acceptance.

Reference: Brown, S.N., Nute, G.R., Baker, A., Hudges, S.I., and Warriss, P.D. (2008). Aspects of meat and eating quality of broiler chickens reared under standard, maize-free, free-range or organic systems. British Poultry Science 49(2): 118-124. Available online at: