The effects of age (from 1 day post-hatch to 98 days of age) and feeding levels (feed restriction followed by overfeeding v. ad libitum feeding) on lipid deposition in breast muscle (quantity and quality, localisation) of mule ducks were determined in relation to muscle energy metabolism (glycolytic and oxidative), plasma levels of lipids, glucose and insulin, and muscle capacity for lipid uptake (characterised by lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity). Two periods were defined for age effects on intramuscular lipids in breast muscle: − 1 to 42 days of age when lipids (mainly phospholipids and cholesterol provided by egg yolk) stored in the adipocytes during embryonic life were transferred to the muscle fibres and used for growth and energy requirements, − 42 to 98 days of age when the muscle again stored lipids (mainly triglycerides provided by liver lipogenesis), first in fibres and then in adipocytes.
Plasma glucose and insulin levels were not affected by age. Plasma levels of lipids and LPL activity in breast muscle were high at 1 and 14 days of age and then decreased, remaining stable until 98 days of age. Energy metabolism activity in the breast muscle (mainly glycolytic activity) increased with age.
Feed restriction, corresponding to 79% of ad libitum intake, applied between 42 and 75 days of age only resulted in decreases in plasma insulin concentration and total lipid content of breast muscle, mainly affecting triglyceride and mono-unsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) levels. Overfeeding increased plasma levels of insulin and lipids while glycaemia remained stable. LPL activity and total lipid levels increased in breast muscle, mainly induced by deposition of triglycerides and MUFA occurring particularly during the 2nd week of this period. Glycolytic energy metabolism decreased.
In response to age or feeding levels, muscle lipid levels and composition reflect plasma lipid levels and composition and high muscle lipid levels stimulate oxidative energy metabolism.