Organic trace minerals have long been marketed with claims of improved bird performance, health, and overall welfare -- with varying degree of success. Withstanding the validity of such claims, it remains indisputable that well-formulated organic minerals are more digestible than inorganic ones.

Indeed, one of my constant claims was that if they were less expensive than in-organic forms, on per unit of digestible content basis, then I would not hesitate to use them. Or, as I frequently asked one of my suppliers: Can I use less of your organic minerals to replace my inorganic forms? At that time, they could not provide any answer backed by research.

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Today, I believe I have a first answer coming from a study, in which the performance and carcass quality of broilers fed diets containing either a commercial inorganic mineral premix (control) or organic trace minerals (OTM) were evaluated in a commercial environment. Four identical houses with a total of 119,500 mixed-sex broiler chickens were used (two treatments × two replicates). Birds were fed identical corn-soybean based diets differing only in mineral form and levels.

The inorganic treatment (control) provided Cu, Zn, Fe, Mn and Se at levels of 8, 44, 55, 66 and 0.2 ppm, respectively. The OTM contained 5.5, 22, 5.5, 22 and 0.3 ppm of Cu, Zn, Fe, Mn and Se, respectively. Growth and feed conversion during the 35-day trial were not influenced (P > 0.05) by treatment. Over the entire trial period, birds showed significantly lower (P < 0.05) mortality with the OTM treatment, something that remains unexplained. But, as expected, there was no effect of OTM on carcass yield, breast meat pH, drip loss or on meat color (L* and b* values). The results showed that, under commercial conditions, using lower levels of trace minerals from organic sources (except Se -- but why the researchers did not lower Se as well?) does not harm broiler performance or carcass quality.