Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

June 29, 2006

U of G Prof Working to 'Hatch' Omega-3 Chicken

The egg may have come first for Omega-3 enriched poultry products, but now the chicken isn’t far behind.

University of Guelph Animal and Poultry Science Prof. Steven Leeson has already enriched eggs with Omega-3 fatty acids, and is now leading an effort to do the same with poultry meat.

He’s identifying various poultry feed combinations that can be fed to chickens to add heart-healthy fatty acids to the animals’ meat, while also keeping it tasty. The research is sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

“We’ve shown it’s possible to feed poultry Omega-3 fatty acids and have the nutrients expressed in the meat,” said Leeson. “Now our challenge is to help farmers produce this enriched meat efficiently, while maintaining quality taste.”

He’s found the poultry became sufficiently enriched with Omega-3 fatty acids after 10 to 14 days on a flax seed diet. At this stage, the nutrients build up in the body fat and once present, are constantly reused in cycles for growth and energy.

Lesson is now balancing the amount of Omega-3 and DHA fatty acids in the enriched meat to make sure its enhanced nutritive quality doesn’t interfere with taste.

DHA is known to improve human visual and learning abilities, boost immune function and relieve symptoms of some psychological disorders and inflammatory diseases. Leeson says adding fish oil to poultry feed gives humans who consume the poultry an alternative DHA source.

He predicts a market for nutrient-enhanced poultry meat in sales of whole chickens. Unlike most meat cuts that are too lean to store enough fatty acids, whole chickens contain much of the original fat content, which is where DHA and other Omega-3 fatty acids are stored.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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