6th Apr, 2006: FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Poultry scientists at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture have found that Hops, an herb used in brewing beer, might work as a substitute for growth promoting antibiotics in broiler diets.
UA scientists Susan Watkins and Park Waldroup, along with graduate students Jana Cornelison and Frances Yan, conducted the research at the Division of Agriculture's Center of Excellence for Poultry Science.
Results of the study, published in the International Journal of Poultry Science, (Vol. 5 pp. 134-136. 2006) indicated that addition of ground hops to poultry feed improved early growth rate of broiler chicks and reduced the overall feed needed to produce a pound of gain.
Working with Lloyd Rigby, a hops chemist from Yakima, Wash., and John Segal, a leading grower of hops in Grandview, Wash., the Arkansas team conducted a feeding trial in which broiler diets containing either hops or a growth promoting antibiotic were compared along with a control diet with neither treatment.
Although the response from the addition of hops was not as great as that obtained from the antibiotic treatment, it was significantly greater than that of birds fed the control diet.
"Over the past several years we have been exploring a number of alternative products for replacing antibiotics in broiler diets, including many herbs, spices, organic acids, and other similar products. This is the first product that we have found that resulted in performance improvement of this magnitude," Waldroup said.
Waldroup said additional work is needed to determine how consistent the response to hops might be under more stringent growth conditions and any effects on the broiler meat.
"Many herbs and spices may flavor poultry meat, and the fact that hops lend bitterness to beer might mean that it could possibly impart some off flavors to poultry meat," said Waldroup.
"We recognize hops primarily for their role in the brewing industry, and that is precisely the reason we felt that they might be beneficial in poultry feeds." Waldroup said. "They serve as an antimicrobial to keep beer from spoiling, and there are a number of U.S. patents relating to the use of hops as an antimicrobial for several food products."
Hops (Humulus lupulus) also have a long history as an herbal remedy in human medicine.