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Blood biomarkers for better quality control of meat in chicken

Variations in muscle ultimate pH (pHu) are highly correlated with variations in poultry meat quality. Two chicken lines were divergently selected on breast pHu to understand the biological basis for variations in meat quality. The quantification of blood and muscle metabolites by high-resolution NMR allowed identifying a metabolic set of 7 high-confidence biomarkers potentially useful to predict the quality of poultry meat on live animals.

Analyse de la qualité des viandes de volaille en laboratoire, mesure du pH dans un filet de poulet.. © INRA, WEBER Jean
Updated on 09/08/2017
Published on 09/07/2017

Context and challenge:

The availability of blood biomarkers of meat quality would greatly facilitate the development of phenotyping methods on live animals. In chickens, the muscle ultimate pH (pHu) is correlated to many sensory and technological meat quality parameters (Alnahhas et al., 2014, 2015, 2016). The model of the pHu+ and pHu- lines recently developed by INRA was used to identify by high resolution NMR blood and muscle metabolites that predict the pHu of chicken breast fillets.


NMR analyzes (1H and 31P for muscle and 1H for serum) revealed very specific metabolomics signatures of pHu+ and pHu- lines, both in blood and muscle, allowing near perfect discrimination of low and high-pH meat. In total, 20 and 26 discriminating metabolites between the two lines were identified by OPLS-DA multivariate analysis in serum and muscle, respectively. A multiblock model, including muscle and blood metabolites, was developed that showed very high explanatory (R2 = 0.91) and predictive (Q2 = 0.86) abilities. However, in order to develop a test that can be used routinely in live animals, a metabolic set of 7 high-confidence blood biomarkers (acetylglutamine, arginine, formate, glucose, hypoxanthine, phenylalanine and xanthine) was identified that allows a good discrimination (R2 = 0.73) while limiting biological tests for diagnosis.


The predictive potential of these serum biomarkers should now be validated on other chicken populations that are both more representative of the variability observed in slaughter plants and having various genetic backgrounds. If this validation step is successful, these biomarkers could be used in breeding to exclude from the parental stock those individuals predisposed to produce high-pH, with DFD (Dark, Firm, Dry) characteristics or acid meats or for research purpose to evaluate innovations related to animal husbandry and nutrition practices.


Beauclercq S, Nadal‐Desbarats L, Hennequet‐Antier C, Collin A, Tesseraud S, Bourin M, Le Bihan‐Duval E, Berri C. (2016) Serum and Muscle Metabolomics for the Prediction of Ultimate pH, a Key Factor for Chicken‐Meat Quality. Journal of Proteome Research, 15:1168‐1178. doi: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.5b01050.