Effects of dietary protein level on muscle cellularity and flesh quality in Atlantic salmon with particular reference to gaping

Ian Alistair Johnston, S Manthri, R Alderson, P Campbell, D Mitchell, D Whyte, A Dingwall, D Nickell, C Selkirk, B Robertson

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55 Citations (Scopus)


Growth performance, muscle cellularity and flesh quality were investigated in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) fed either of two diet ranges [high protein (HP), or low protein (LP)], which differed in digestible protein/digestible energy ratios but were of equivalent digestible energy content (21.4 MJ kg(-1) wet weight). Smolts from an early maturing (Lochy) and a late maturing (Mowi) strain were PIT tagged and reared together in duplicate 5 x 5 x 5-m sea cages for each diet. The Lochy and Mowi fish were harvested in May and August, respectively, after 417 and 515 days in seawater. The average body weight of fish in each cage at harvest was in the range 3.8-5.4 kg, with no significant difference between diets. The total cross-sectional area of white muscle and the number and diameter of muscle fibres was determined at the level of the first dorsal fin ray. The distribution of muscle fibre diameters was investigated using nonparametric smoothing and bootstrapping techniques. Diet had no effect on fibre size distribution or fibre number in the Mowi strain, and small but significant effects for the Lochy strain. At harvest, in Lochy salmon of average fork length 69 cm there were around 15% more fibres in fish fed the HP than LP ratio diets. However, the 50th percentile of fibre diameter was 20% greater in fish fed the LP than HP diets, such that the total muscle cross-sectional area was similar. The lipid content (14.1-15.3% wet mass), astaxanthin pigment concentration (7.0-8.5 mg kg(-1) wet mass) and colour (RocheSalmoFan(TM) and Minolta Chromatometer readings) of the flesh were similar for both strains and diets. There was no significant difference in the average muscle Fibre density between strains and diet, which varied between 60 and 140 fibres mm (2) muscle cross-sectional area. Gaping during processing of the fillet was in part related to muscle cellularity. Little or no gaping was observed in any fish with a fibre density in excess of 95 fibres mm (2) muscle. It was concluded that individual variation in fibre density is important in the development of gaping, but that muscle cellularity and flesh quality are relatively insensitive to the protein to energy ratio in the diet over the range studied. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-283
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2002


  • Atlantic salmon
  • growth performance
  • diet
  • skeletal muscle
  • muscle fibre recruitment
  • flesh quality
  • gaping
  • SALAR L.


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