On the day before processing, 8 focal birds (4 females and 4 males) per pen from those to be processed were individually weighed and labeled with a colored zip tie on one of their legs. These labeled birds were part of the 12 wing-tagged focal birds and represented approximately 18% of the initial pen population (prior removal of birds to keep stocking density of 30 kg/m2) to encompass a representative sample size, while considering the logistics of the project (e.g., transportation, capacity of the processing plant, and labor). The colored labels enabled the identification of each pen and differentiation of selected birds from the remaining birds being processed. The group weight was obtained to determine the final BW for each pen processed. The feeders were removed from each pen at 23:00 h the night prior to processing. Birds had free access to water until loading. The next morning at 06:00 h, the birds were placed into crates and transported 35 min to a provincially inspected processing plant. Birds were hung on a shackle line and electrically stunned in a brine-water bath (25V and 120 Hz for 10 s), and then bled for 90 s. Following mechanical defeathering and manual evisceration, the carcasses were air-chilled at 4°C for 5 h and transported in coolers, to the university, where the carcasses were kept overnight at 4°C. Ready-to-cook carcass weight (after removal of the viscera, feet, and head) was obtained and carcass yield was expressed as the percentage of the live weight (LW) obtained the day before processing. Trained butchers manually deboned the carcasses and weights for the skinless and boneless breast muscle (Pectoralis major and Pectoralis minor), wings, drumsticks, and thighs were obtained. The yields of the carcass portions are reported as the percentage of the ready-to-cook carcass weight and of the LW.

During processing, some of the samples were over scalded. Because the birds were processed in a commercial processing plant, it is unclear why overscalding occurred more often in some trials and processing than others, as no pattern was observed regarding season, strains, BW, and age of birds showing overscalded breasts. Color of the skinless breast fillets was measured at 3 different locations (cranial, medial and caudal) using Minolta CR-400 with Spectra QC-400 software (Folio Instruments, Kitchener, ON, Canada) to identify possibly overscalded samples, following the CIE L*a*b* system, in which L* represents lightness, a* represents redness, and b* represents yellowness. Samples showing L* values equal or greater than 59 were removed from the WS assessment (Sirri et al., 2011; da Silva-Buzanello et al., 2019).

This value was used as a cut-off point to be conservative in our analysis, resulting in the exclusion of light breast samples potentially due to overscalding that could interfere the assessment of WS.

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