The condition affects up to 10 per cent of chickens and has emerged as a major issue for the industry.
The researchers have found that the first stage of the condition involves inflammation of the veins in the breast tissue and accumulation of lipid around the affected veins. That is followed over time by muscle cell death and replacement by fibrous and fatty tissue.
Initial investigations of the disease focused more on chickens at market age of six to eight weeks; few studies looked into early onset.
What remains to be determined is a way to avoid the problem.