While there are many accepted “facts” within the field of poultry science that are in truth still open for discussion, there is little debate with respect to the tremendous genetic progress that has been made with commercial broilers and turkeys (Havenstein et al., 2003, 2007). When one considers the changes in carcass development in poultry meat strains, these genetic “improvements” have not always been accompanied by correlated changes in other physiological systems and this can predispose some birds to developmental anomalies (i.e. ascites; Pavlidis et al., 2007; Wideman et al., 2013). Over the last decade, there has been increased interest in intestinal growth/health as poultry nutritionists have attempted to adopt new approaches to deal with the broader changes in the overall nutrition landscape. This landscape includes not only the aforementioned genetic changes but also a raft of governmental policies that have focused attention on the environment (phosphorus and nitrogen excretion), consumer pressure on the use of antibiotics, and renewable biofuels with its consequent effects on ingredient costs. Intestinal morphology has become a common research tool for assessing nutritional effects on the intestine but it is only one metric among many that can be used and histological results can often be interpreted in a variety of ways. This study will address the broader body of research on intestinal growth and development in commercial poultry and will attempt to integrate the topics of the intestinal: microbial interface and the role of the intestine as an immune tissue under the broad umbrella of intestinal physiology.
Key words: intestine, digestion, goblet cells, mucin, innate immunity.
Published in Poultry Science (2015) 94:1569–1576 http://dx.doi.org/10.3382/ps/pev104.