Chicken and egg producers have the capability to produce products that will help improve human health and doing so will give them a competitive advantage. The key is feeding the animals a diet high in DHA and then marketing the DHA-enriched eggs and poultry to consumers. That was the message delivered by Nikki Putnam, Alltech’s registered dietitian nutritionist, at the annual Alltech breakfast at the 2015 International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE).
“I joined Alltech 18 months ago and everyone asked me why a human nutritionist would join an animal nutrition company,” she said. “I think it’s a perfect fit because animal nutrition has a direct impact on human nutrition.”
Her talk focused on the positive benefits of Omega 5 fatty acids, and specifically Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), to the health of humans. It’s been proven that a diet high in DHA can help prevent or reduce the impact of some of the leading health problems in today’s world – coronary heart disease and reduced brain function with aging.
“We can enrich layer diets with microalgae that helps them create DHA-enriched eggs,” said Putnam. She said that makes eggs a functional food -- a food that provides added benefit or reduces disease risk.
Putnam said the health-conscious consumers are looking for these functional foods. “They know how to read labels and they know when a claim might be a stretch. People want to know where their food came from and how it was produced. They want to know what animal ate, how it was produced.”
DHA-enriched eggs and other specialty eggs are commanding higher prices at the retail level. She showed multiple examples of companies marketing DHA-enriched eggs and getting a premium price.
Feeding a DHA-enriched animal diet also works in broiler meat production. Putnam cited studies that showed that broilers fed Alltech’s All-G-Rich supplement have increased DHA levels in thigh and breast meat.
“In addition to improving the nutrient quality of the meat, studies have shown a high DHA diet improves immunity in the birds,” said Putnam. “So there are production benefits as well.”
She explained that Alltech’s supplement is produced at its commercial algae production facility in Kentucky. She said this gives a more uniform level of DHA than fishmeal and other animal-based supplements. It is also an all-vegetarian and sustainable supplement, which is important to many consumers.
“Food is the new medicine, and DHA is part of that,” said Putnam. “Health is the biggest concern for baby boomers. They are looking for nutrients, price, and sustainability.” She said high-DHA feed can help poultry producers meet all of those goals.