Open Access Open Badges Research article

Genetic variances, heritabilities and maternal effects on body weight, breast meat yield, meat quality traits and the shape of the growth curve in turkey birds

Muhammad L Aslam1*, John WM Bastiaansen1, Richard PMA Crooijmans1, Bart J Ducro1, Addie Vereijken2 and Martien AM Groenen1

Author Affiliations

1 Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen University, 6709PG, Wageningen, the Netherlands

2 Hendrix Genetics, Research & Technology Centre, 5830 AC, Boxmeer, the Netherlands

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BMC Genetics 2011, 12:14  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-12-14

Published: 25 January 2011



Turkey is an important agricultural species and is largely used as a meat bird. In 2004, turkey represented 6.5% of the world poultry meat production. The world-wide turkey population has rapidly grown due to increased commercial farming. Due to the high demand for turkey meat from both consumers and industry global turkey stocks increased from 100 million in 1970 to over 276 million in 2004. This rapidly increasing importance of turkeys was a reason to design this study for the estimation of genetic parameters that control body weight, body composition, meat quality traits and parameters that shape the growth curve in turkey birds.


The average heritability estimate for body weight traits was 0.38, except for early weights that were strongly affected by maternal effects. This study showed that body weight traits, upper asymptote (a growth curve trait), percent breast meat and redness of meat had high heritability whereas heritabilities of breast length, breast width, percent drip loss, ultimate pH, lightness and yellowness of meat were medium to low. We found high positive genetic and phenotypic correlations between body weight, upper asymptote, most breast meat yield traits and percent drip loss but percent drip loss was found strongly negatively correlated with ultimate pH. Percent breast meat, however, showed genetic correlations close to zero with body weight traits and upper asymptote.


The results of this analysis and the growth curve from the studied population of turkey birds suggest that the turkey birds could be selected for breeding between 60 and 80 days of age in order to improve overall production and the production of desirable cuts of meat. The continuous selection of birds within this age range could promote high growth rates but specific attention to meat quality would be needed to avoid a negative impact on the quality of meat.