Poultry meat is widely accepted as a good source of high-quality protein, the B vitamins, and minerals such as iron.
The fact that poultry meat is considered to be a source of lean meat and has a higher level of unsaturated fat as compared with red meat has resulted in a significant increase in poultry meat consumption in North America (Table 1) and around the world. Overall, the composition of poultry meat is dependent on species, strain, sex, age, and diet. Table 4 illustrates that species vary in their fat content. Turkey meat is usually lower in fat than chicken, while goose and duck meat are higher in fat. In poultry fat is deposited either under the skin or in the abdominal cavity. Therefore it is easy to obtain very lean poultry meat by separating the skin from the flesh. This is different from red meat where marbling or intramuscular fat deposits are visible within a meat cut and are difficult to separate from the lean muscle. The diet of the monogastric birds can also significantly affect the composition of the meat. Carcass fat content and composition is particularly sensitive to the type of feed. In general, high-energy diets or low-protein diets have been shown to increase carcass fat. It is also possible to increase the proportion of unsaturated fat in poultry meat by manipulating the fat source in the diet.
The relatively high degree of fat unsaturation makes poultry meat susceptible to lipid oxidation during storage. Some processes, such as mechanical deboning, can further enhance the rate of lipid oxidation. In mechanically deboned poultry meat (MDPM), the release of heme from bone marrow, the aeration during the separation process, and extreme mechanical stress can further accelerate the oxidation process (7). The problem of oxidative rancidity can be partially controlled by the exclusion of oxygen by vacuum packaging, the addition of tocopherol to the diet of live birds (ie, vitamin E is deposited in the muscle tissue and later serves as an antioxidant), or the addition of synthetic or natural antioxidants to further processed products. It should be noted that synthetic antioxidants can be used only in countries where permitted.
The production of MDPM has increased substantially during the last three decades, mainly due to the development of equipment for harvesting the meat left on the skeletal frame after hand deboning and because of the increased demand for poultry meat. Today new aspects of mechanical deboning are investigated, such as the mechanical deboning of whole fowl and the subsequent washing of MDPM to obtain lighter meat. The latter is also less susceptible to lipid oxidation due to the removal of heme
(eg, the process is similar to the production of fish-based surimi). MDPM is characterized by a pastelike texture and is readily available for the production of finely comminuted meat products (eg, frankfurters, bologna) where finely chopped muscle is traditionally used.
Cooking can also affect the final composition of the meat. This is basically due to the leaching of some of the meat components or the absorption of cooking media into the meat. Yields of cooked poultry average about 75%; the highest yields can be obtained by stewing (78%) followed by frying (77%) and roasting (69%) (6). However, since large variations exist in cooking methods, postslaughter practices (chilling and freezing), and preparation (with or without bone and skin), it is recommended that a reference to a specific cut and cooking procedure be sought.
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