Carcass bruising: What's wrong with my birds?

The consumer’s decision making process when purchasing poultry products mainly takes into account appearance, hygiene and flavor. To help guarantee that the best quality product reaches consumers, several procedures should be in place.

Veterinary inspection at the time of slaughter aims to guarantee that poultry carcasses are free from disease or fecal contamination. In the presence of one (or both) contaminations, carcasses are condemned and withdrawn from the food chain. 

Carcass bruising/hemorrhaging is one of several reasons leading to carcass downgrading (reduced quality) or condemnation in the slaughterhouse. It is caused by the breakage of blood vessels and subsequent leakage of blood into tissues without skin rupture.

It is difficult to determine whether they occur at the farm, during transport or at the plant; therefore, any major financial losses that result are usually absorbed by the slaughterhouse.

According to scientific literature, the colour of the bruise may be indicative of the age of the injury with red to dark red being recent bruises (≤ 12 hours) and light green, yellow-orange and yellow ones being older (≥ 24 hours).

Some 90% of bruising occurs within 12-24 hours before processing, with breast, wings and legs being the most frequently affected parts. The potential causes are inadequate flock density in the grow-out house and/ or the failure to properly adjust pickers at catching.

Inadequate stunning (voltage and time) can lead to petechial hemorrhages usually occurring in the breast and legs. The presence of pathogens in the farm, such as IBDV (Gumboro disease), may increase capillary weakness which leads to carcass bruising.

Mycotoxins such as aflatoxins work in a similar way by reducing the force required to produce bruises due to increased capillary fragility. Usually these occur in the thighs. For mycotoxin-related problems, prevention can be undertaken through the use of a proper mycotoxin risk management tool which relies on complementary detoxification strategies (biotransformation, adsorption, bioprotection) to eliminate the toxic effects in the animals, while guaranteeing liver and immune protection.