The effect of housing conditions on Biceps femoris muscle fibre properties, fatty acid composition, performance and carcass traits of slow-growing rabbits

Zdenek Volek, Darina Chodova, Eva Tumova, Lenka Volkova, Elena Marounek, Milan Marounek


The aim of the present work was to evaluate the effect of stocking density on the biceps femoris (BF) muscle fibre properties, meat quality, the growth performance and carcass traits of Czech White rabbits.  A total of 20 rabbits (40 days old, 10 rabbits per treatment, sex ratio 1/1) were reared in cages at different stocking densities (10 rabbits/m2 or 4 rabbits/m2) for 49 days. Stocking density had no significant effect on the growth performance. There were no significant differences between groups with regard to hot carcass weight (HCW) or dressing-out percentage. The proportions of both perirenal (9.5 vs. 15.9 g/kg HCW; P=0.010) and total dissectible fat (14.9 vs. 25.1 g/kg HCW; P=0.001) were lower in rabbits reared at the lower stocking density. No significant differences in ultimate pH values, meat colour or proximate composition were observed. The hind leg meat of rabbits reared at the lower stocking density contained significantly less lauric (4.6 vs. 6.7 mg/100 g of muscle; P=0.008) and myristic acid (52.2 vs. 64.4 mg/100 g of muscle; P=0.033). Significantly higher percentages of βR fibres (16.3 vs. 6.5 %, P=0.001) and αR fibres (24.5 vs. 14.2 %; P=0.001) and a significantly lower percentage of αW fibres (59.2 vs. 79.3 %; P=0.001) were also observed in these rabbits. The mean cross-sectional area (1882 vs. 2744 μm2; P=0.001) and diameter (47.9 vs. 58.5 μm; P=0.001) of βR fibres were smaller in rabbits reared at the lower stocking density. Thus, the lower stocking density favourably affected the medium-chain fatty acid profile of meat and fibre characteristics of the rabbits' biceps femoris muscle.


rabbit; stocking density; meat; fatty acid; fibre muscle

Full Text:



Arakawa K., Sagai M. 1986. Species differences in lipid peroxide levels in lung tissue and investigation of their determining factors. Lipids, 21: 769-775. doi:10.1007/BF02535410

AOAC. 1995. Official Methods of Analysis. 16th Ed. Assoc. Off. Anal. Chem., Arlington, VA, USA.

AOAC International. 2000. Official Methods of Analysis. 17th Ed. Assoc. Off. Anal. Chem., Washington, DC, USA.

AOAC International. 2005. Official Methods of Analysis. 18th Ed. Assoc. Off. Anal. Chem., Maryland, USA.

Ashmore C.R., Doerr L. 1971. Comparative aspects of muscle fiber types in different species. Exp. Neurol., 31: 408-418. doi:10.1016/0014-4886(71)90243-3

Blasco A., Ouhayoun J. 1996. Harmonization of criteria and terminology in rabbit meat research. Revised proposal. World Rabbit Sci., 4: 93-99. doi:10.4995/wrs.1996.278

Brooke M.H., Kaiser K.K. 1970. Muscle fiber types: How many and what kind? Arch. Neurol., 23: 369-379. doi:10.1001/ archneur.1970.00480280083010

Dalle Zotte A., Ouhayoun J. 1998. Effect of genetic origin, diet and weaning weight on carcass composition, muscle physicochemical and histochemical traits in the rabbit. Meat Sci., 50: 471-478. doi:10.1016/S0309-1740(98)00060-6

Dalle Zotte A. 2002. Perception of rabbit meat quality and major factors influencing the rabbit carcass and meat quality. Livest. Prod. Sci., 75: 11-32. doi:10.1016/S0301 6226(01)00308-6

Dalle Zotte A., Szendrő Zs. 2011. The role of rabbit meat as functional food. Meat Sci., 88: 319-331. doi:10.1016/j. meatsci.2011.02.017

D’Agata M., Preziuso G., Russo C., Dalle Zotte A., Mourvaki E., Paci G. 2009. Effect of an outdoor rearing system on the welfare, growth performance, carcass and meat quality of a slow-growing rabbit population. Meat Sci., 83: 691-696. doi:10.1016/j.meatsci.2009.08.005

De Blas J.C., Mateos G.G. 2010. Feed formulation. In: de Blas J.C., Wiseman J. (ed.). Nutrition of the Rabbit (2nd edition). CAB International, Wallingford, UK, 222-232. doi:10.1079/9781845936693.0222

DeLany J.P., Windhauser M.M., Champagne C.M., Bray G.A. 2000. Differential oxidation of individual dietary fatty acids in humans. Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 72: 905-911.

Diemair W. 1963. Laboratoriumsbuch für den Lebensmittelchemiker (Laboratory Manual for Food Chemists). Dresden und Leipzig: Theodor Steinkopff Verlag.

Fernández-Carmona J., Blas E., Pascual J.J., Maertens L., Gidenne T., Xiccato G., García J. 2005. Recommendations and guidelines for applied nutrition experiments in rabbits. World Rabbit Sci., 13: 209-228. doi:10.4995/wrs.2005.516

Folch J.M., Lees M., Sloane-Stanley G.H. 1957. A simple method for the isolation and purification of total lipids from animal tissues. J. Biol. Chem., 226: 497-509.

Gondret F., Hernandez P., Rémignon H., Combes S. 2009. Skeletal muscle adaptations and biomechanical properties of tendons in response to jump exercise in rabbits. J. Anim. Sci., 87: 544-553. doi:10.2527/jas.2008-1286

Helge J. W., Ayre K. J., Hulbert A. J., Kiens B., Storlien L. H. 1999. Regular exercise modulates muscle membrane phospholipid profile in rats. J. Nutr., 129: 1636-1642.

Helge J. W., Wu B. J., Willer M., Daugaard J. R., Storlien L. H., Kiens B. 2001. Training affects muscle phospholipid fatty acid composition in humans. J. Appl. Physiol., 90: 670-677.

ISO 1444. 1996. Meat and meat products. Determination of free fat content. Czech Standards Institute, Prague: International Organization for Standardization.

Lazzaroni C., Biagini D., Lussiana C. 2009a. Fatty acid composition of meat and perirenal fat in rabbits from two different rearing systems. Meat Sci., 83: 135-139. doi:10.1016/j.meatsci.2009.04.011

Lazzaroni C., Biagini D., Lussiana C. 2009b. Different rearing systems for fattening rabbits: performance and carcass characteristics. Meat Sci., 82: 200-204. doi:10.1016/j. meatsci.2009.01.011

Maertens L., Perez J.M., Villamide M., Cervera C., Gidenne T., Xiccato G. 2002. Nutritive value of raw materials for rabbits: EGRAN Tables 2002. World Rabbit Sci., 10: 157-166. doi:10.4995/wrs.2002.488

Mertens D.R. 2002. Gravimetric determination of amylase treated neutral detergent fiber in feeds with refluxing in beakers or crucibles: collaborative study. J. AOAC Int., 85: 1217-1240.

Ouhayoun J., Dalle Zotte A. 1993. Muscular energy metabolism and related traits in rabbit. A review. World Rabbit Sci., 1: 97-108. doi.10.4995/wrs.1993.201

Paci G., Preziuso G., D’Agata M., Russo C., Dalle Zotte A., 2013. Effect of stocking density and group size on growth performance, carcass traits and meat quality of outdoorreared rabbits. Meat Sci., 93: 162-166. doi:10.1016/j. meatsci.2012.08.012

Picard B., Lefaucheur L., Berri C., Duclos M.J. 2002. Muscle fibre ontogenesis in farm animal species. Reprod. Nutr. Dev., 42: 415-431. doi:10.1051/rnd:2002035

Preziuso G., Dalle Zotte A., Paci G. 2009. Meat traits of rabbits housed outdoors: effect of stocking density. Ital. J. Anim. Sci., 8, Suppl. 3: 279-281.

Raclot T. 2003. Selective mobilization of fatty acids from adipose tissue triacylglycerols. Prog. Lipid. Res., 42 : 257-288. doi:10.1016/S0163-7827(02)00066-8

Raes K., De Smet S., Balcaen A., Claeys E., Demeyer D. 2003. Effect of diets rich in N-3 polyunsatured fatty acids on muscle lipids and fatty acids in Belgian Blue double-muscled young bulls. Reprod. Nutr. Dev., 43: 331-345. doi:10.1051/rnd:2003029

SAS. 2001. SAS/STAT user’s guide (release 8.2). Cary, NC, USA: SAS Inst. Inc.

Szabó A., Romvári R., Fébel H., Bogner P., Szendrő Zs. 2002. Training-induced alterations of the fatty acid profile of rabbit muscles. Acta Vet. Hung., 50: 357-364. http://dx.doi. org/10.1556/AVet.50.2002.3.11

Szendrő Zs., Princz Z., Romvári R., Locsmándi L., Szabó A., Bázár Gy., Radnai I., Biró-Németh E., Matics Zs., Nagy I. 2009. Effect of group size and stocking density on productive, carcass, meat quality and aggression traits of growing rabbits. World Rabbit Sci., 17: 153-162. doi:10.4995/wrs.2009.655

Szendrő Zs., Dalle Zotte A. 2011. Effect of housing conditions on production and behaviour of growing meat rabbits: A review. Livest. Sci., 137: 296-303. doi:10.1016/j.livsci.2010.11.012

Trocino A., Xiccato G., Queaque P.I., Sartori A. 2004. Group housing of growing rabbits: effect of stocking density and cage floor on performance, welfare, and meat quality. World Rabbit Sci., 13: 138-139. doi:10.4995/wrs.2005.522

Tůmová E., Martinec M., Chodová, D. 2011. Analysis of Czech rabbit genetic resources. Sci. Agric. Bohem., 42: 113-118. Ulbricht T.L.V., Southgate D.A.T. 1991. Coronary heart disease: seven dietary factors. The Lancet, 338: 985-992. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(91)91846-M

Verspecht A., Maertens L., Vanhonacker F., Tuyttens F.A.M., Van Huylenbroeck G., Verbeke W. 2011. Economic impact of decreasing stocking densities in broiler rabbit production based on Belgian farm data. World Rabbit Sci., 19: 123-132. doi:10.4995/wrs.2011.849

Vigneron P., Bacou F. 1976. Fibre population studies in two muscles from rabbits of different breeds. In Proc. 1th International Rabbit Congress, March 31st-April 2nd, 1976, Dijon, France. Vol. 2, Comm 71.

Villalobos O., Guillén O., García J. 2008. Effect of cage density on growth and carcass performance of fattening rabbits under tropical heat stress conditions. World Rabbit Sci., 16: 89-97. doi:10.4995/wrs.2008.631

Volek Z., Marounek M. 2011. Effect of feeding growing fattening rabbits a diet supplemented with whole white lupin (Lupinus albus cv. Amiga) seeds on fatty acid composition and indexes related to human health in hind leg meat and perirenal fat. Meat Sci.: 87, 40-45. doi:10.1016/j.meatsci.2010.08.015

Xiccato G., Trocino A., Majolini D., Tazzoli M., Zuffellato A. 2013. Housing of growing rabbits in individual, bicellular and collective cages: growth performance, carcass traits and meat quality. Animal, 7: 627-632.

Abstract Views

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


Cited-By (articles included in Crossref)

This journal is a Crossref Cited-by Linking member. This list shows the references that citing the article automatically, if there are. For more information about the system please visit Crossref site

1. Impact of space allowance on performance traits, brain neurotransmitters and blood antioxidant activity of New Zealand White rabbits
Mahmoud S. El-Tarabany, Omar A. Ahmed-Farid, Akram A. El-Tarabany
Preventive Veterinary Medicine  vol: 163  first page: 44  year: 2019  
doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2018.12.011


 Universitat Politècnica de València


Official journal of the World Rabbit Science Association (WRSA)


e-ISSN: 1989-8886     ISSN: 1257-5011