Background: One of the challenges of the contemporary meat industry is to obtain reliable information on meat quality throughout the entire production cycle. Previous studies have shown that computerized analysis of muscle ultrasonograms is a promising method to predict certain characteristics of skeletal muscles in live birds.
Methods: The present study set out to examine associations among echotextural, physicochemical and sensory attributes of the pectoralis major muscles in 17-week old (B.U.T.) Big-6 turkeys raised in a sustainable farming system, and varying in the amount of wheat and oat grain in daily feed rations (Group C: complete feed only; Group Exp 1: 5 to 30% of wheat and 0 to 20% of oat; and Group Exp2: 5 to 50% of wheat and 0 to 50% of oat; n = 15 turkeys/group). Digital ultrasonograms of the left pectoral muscle in four different planes (longitudinal-L, transverse-T, and two oblique planes-O1 and O2) were obtained with a 5.0-MHz linear-array transducer just before slaughter. First-order echotextural variables (mean numerical pixel intensity-MPI and pixel heterogeneity-MPH) of the muscle parenchyma were computed using the ImageProPlusâ analytical software. Physicochemical and sensory attributes of the pectoral muscles were determined using validated laboratory and analytical methods.
Results. Twelve significant correlations between echotextural attributes and various meat characteristics were recorded in Group C, one in Group Exp1, and eight in Group Exp2. When data were pooled for all birds studied, there were twelve significant correlations (P < 0.05); all but one correlation (between MPH and moisture) were for physical and sensory characteristics of meat samples. The strongest overall correlation was between O1-MPH and aroma (intensity) (r = -0.41, P = 0.005).
Conclusion: Computer-assisted analysis is a potential method to determine certain chemical constituents (mainly moisture) as well as physical (e.g., coloration) and sensory (e.g., aroma) characteristics of pectoralis major muscles in organic turkeys. The occurrence and strength of quantitative correlations among echotextural characteristics in situ and post-mortem traits of turkeys’ muscles are affected by nutrition and scanning plane.