Professor Bob Gibson and his FOODplus team, in collaboration with the University of Manitoba in Canada, have been awarded $300,000 over three years to investigate more efficient and environmentally sustainable ways to increase levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the eggs and meat of chickens for better human nutrition.
The grant has been awarded through the State Government’s Premiers International Research Grant Program to improve collaborations between international partners and leading researchers in South Australia and was announced yesterday by the Minister for Science and Information Economy, Grace Portolesi.
As Professor Gibson explains “Dietary omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal development and healthy living, but most Australians do not meet the recommended daily intakes from seafood or fish oil and increasing the amount from marine sources is not sustainable. The average Australian now eats more chicken than any other meat, so increasing the omega-3 fatty acid content of chicken meat and eggs provides a way for people to increase the intake of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids sustainably without requiring consumers to change their current purchasing or dietary practices”.
A previous project, funded by the Constellation SA scheme and aligned with the Manitoba Funding Initiative, showed that it’s possible to increase the omega-3 content of chicken meat and eggs, without affecting the sensory properties of these products, by modulating the chickens’ dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from sustainable plant sources. Importantly, this work also showed that birds fed a diet with an increased ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats (through addition of flaxseed oil, rich in ALA) had better growth rates and improved feed conversion ratio (FCR) compared to the birds fed a control commercial diet.
The new initiative project will examine the best ways to reduce the cost of providing the flaxseed diet, while still sustaining growth and feed efficiency benefits and retaining the increased nutritional attributes of the chicken products. It will build on industry interest in the preliminary work, translating this research into industry practice and has direct applications to flaxseed growers, chicken feed producers and chicken production industries, and is squarely aligned with the South Australian Government’s Strategic Priority for premium food and wine from a clean environment.