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Applying science to chicken feed

Published on 2 November, 2009, Last updated at 08:58 GMT

Northern Ireland scientists have developed a new type of "high energy" chicken feed which uses the principal by-product of biodiesel production.

Biodiesel is diesel fuel made using vegetable oil or animal fat.

Its main by-product is glycerol - a thick oily substance rich in carbohydrates which is already used as a solvent and sweetener in several foods and drinks.

After carrying out a series of trials, scientists at Northern Ireland's Agri Food Biosciences Institute conclude that glycerol from biodiesel production has proved itself a more than useful chicken feed.

The scientists insist that, when incorporated with traditional ingredients such as wheat and soya, feed produced using it is appetising for the birds.

Intake figures suggest the chickens eat similar amounts of the new feed.

But not only do they eat just as much as usual, the birds also do well on it.

The project leader Elizabeth McCann said live weight gain and other growth parameters are similar to birds fed traditional rations.

The study actually shows that birds on the glycerol ration are more efficient in converting feed into meat.

But the proof of course is in the eating and here too the researchers claim there is no difference with birds fed a normal ration.

The trial looked at the succulence of breast meat and found no difference for birds fed on a ration containing glycerol.

All of this though does raise the question of what is a 'normal' ration?

Going back a generation or two, chickens mostly grubbed around the farmyard picking up worms and seeds.

At that time soya beans and palm kernel meal were a world away.

These days feed ingredients arrive from around the world.

Viewed like this perhaps its not too surprising that the livestock feed industry will view the glycerol results with interest.


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