Delaware Public Media

UD researcher tackling Wooden Breast Syndrome in chicken

Nov 30, 2019

A UD researcher is making strides towards figuring out what causes a specific genetic problem in chicken that makes their meat unmarketable. 


Wooden Breast Syndrome is a common genetic defect in broiler chicken bred for meat production. It makes the breast meat too stiff to sell on the market.

UD Associate Professor of Animal and Food Sciences Benham Abasht has identified a fat producing protein called lipoprotein lipase expressing higher in the blood vessels of chicken with the syndrome. 

“That is why we see more fat coming to the breast muscle and causing this condition,” said Abasht.       

Abasht says the syndrome is likely a result of broiler chicken being bred for rapid growth since the 1940s. The syndrome does not occur in chicken not bred in this manner, and Abasht points out the FDA does not allow growth hormones to be used in poultry production. 

He says to fix the problem in the long term, the syndrome must be bred out of chicken populations. But he hopes his discovery will help to offer some more short term solutions for poultry farmers.

“Basically bring us a few steps closer towards managing this problem at production level,” said Abasht.       

Abasht says there could be potential short-term solutions to managing Wooden Breast Syndrome in chicken feed solutions.

“It’s going to take a long time, the case may be, to breed this straight out of the poultry production,” he said. “But in the meantime, we can look up to find some solutions like feed additives, feed supplements.”