Michigan State University Boosting Heat Stress Tolerance in Turkeys

The perfect deli sandwich starts with optimal living conditions for turkeys everywhere. Temperature stress right before processing turkey directly impacts the quality of turkey meat that consumers expect and enjoy.

If the birds experience a significant stretch of heat just before slaughter, as much as 40 percent of the turkey meat comes out paler, dryer, and cracks more easily after processing. Likewise, hatchlings exposed to prolonged heat or cold during transportation from the hatchery to farms often yield inferior quality meat.

If the turkey is dry and stringy on Thanksgiving, we blame it on the cook. Although sometimes that is true, often the problem results from the environmental conditions in the poultry barn.

– Dr. Gale Strasburg

Gale Strasburg, PhD, and several colleagues dug into the problem by examining the metabolic changes that thermal stress produces. They learned that large temperature changes affect the profile of proteins involved in muscle metabolism, which is why the birds cannot adapt to sudden changes in temperature.

Dr. Strasburg and his team are now experimenting with exposing eggs to mild heat increases, which alters muscle growth and development in poults. Once the benefits of this tactic have been quantified, the next step will be to devise a process that implements the findings on an intensive scale.

Retaking The Field Volume 2 “Retaking the Field: Strengthening the Science of Farm and Food Production” is a collaborative report from eleven universities and the SoAR Foundation. The report — the second in SoAR’s series — shows how scientists are solving some of the thorniest questions in food production and highlights research breakthroughs funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). It is part of SoAR’s broader education and advocacy to encourage additional federal support for food and agricultural research. View The Issue
Retaking the Field Volume 2: Strengthening the Science of Farm and Food Production Click to download report

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