US - The recent trend in poultry production towards decreased feeding of antibiotics and increased feeding of probiotics led researchers at Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center, a part of the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, to look at how probiotics are helpful in poultry diets.
Sales of probiotic-fed chicken products in the United States have increased 34 per cent in the last year due to the demand for antibiotic-free poultry.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, Tyson Foods, the country’s largest processor of chicken, announced it would use probiotic-fed chickens in its operations by September 2017.
“The reason for the study was to help the food industry produce a healthier bird,” said Patricia Rayas, FAPC cereal chemist. “When the probiotics are ingested, they try to outweigh the bad bacteria.”
The research team received 300 broiler chickens, which were housed at the OSU poultry farm for 42 days. The broilers were split into four test groups to try different preparations of probiotics.
The team fed probiotics as a supplement in the chickens’ diet by using a mixture of probiotic strains created by Alejandro Penaloza, visiting assistant professor, and a standard feed diet.
“Our hypothesis was that the probiotics would improve the community of microbes in the gut of the broiler,” Ms Rayas said. “The broilers were then fed the probiotics two different ways – mixed in the feed and liquid administration.”
The final step of the study was to process the chickens in FAPC’s processing facility. Data was collected to calculate feed efficiency, and ground samples of the broilers were taken to the Cereal Chemistry Laboratory for further research.
Results showed in the first two weeks the broilers that were fed probiotics had an increased weight gain and lower death rate, thus increasing potential profits in a farm context.
“When the main objective is reached, the isolated probiotics may be useful for the poultry to produce chicken that is free of antibiotics and better-feed efficiency,” Zorba Hernandez, postdoctoral visiting scientist, said.
Research has shown probiotics give broilers protection for intestinal integrity and help defend the immune system from unwanted bacteria.
Mr Hernandez said further research is needed to evaluate other strains of probiotics and acquire more knowledge to measure the benefits of using probiotics in the poultry industry.
“This research can bring health benefits to chickens and people by maintaining healthy microbial community in the intestine of the chickens,” he said.
“This would maintain healthier chickens and reduce the use of antibiotics. Additionally, the use of probiotics also can generate ecological benefits and increase the efficiency of feed conversion of the broilers.”