Healthier Poultry, Healthier People
Oklahoma State University research uses wheat-sourced probiotics to produce healthier chicken
Sales of probiotic-fed chickens in the United States have increased 34 percent in the last year due to the demand for antibiotic-free poultry. According to the U.S. 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.
Because of this trend, researchers at Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center at the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources are studying the use of probiotics in chicken feed.
“The reason for the study is to help the food industry produce a healthier bird,” says Patricia Rayas, FAPC cereal chemist. “When the probiotics are ingested, they try to outweigh the bad bacteria.”
Rayas, along with Alejandro Penaloza, visiting assistant professor, and Zorba Hernandez, postdoctoral visiting scientist, began studying probiotics in November 2014. Probiotics are used to boost the immune system and serve the microbiota in defending bacteria. The team used 300 broiler chickens split into four test groups to different preparations of probiotics. The team fed probiotics as a supplement in the chickens’ diet by using a mixture of strains created by Penaloza and a standard feed diet.
“Our hypothesis was that the probiotics would improve the community of microbes in the gut of the broiler,” Rayas says. “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 where data were 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 fed probiotics had an increased weight gain and lower death rate. When a broiler gains weight, it gains muscle mass, which in return increases potential profit and quantity for growers.
“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,” Hernandez says.
Finding the probiotic strains
FAPC’s Cereal Chemistry Laboratory housed the probiotic strains, which were sourced from wheat. Penaloza isolated the strains and selected those with high production of exoenzymes.
The research team is working with OSU’s Technology Development Center to patent probiotic strains. TDC helps with the development of new products, the integration of new technology and capital investments, including funding this research.
Conducting future research
Hernandez says further research is needed to evaluate other strains of probiotics and measure the benefits of using probiotics in poultry.
“This research can bring health benefits to chickens and people by maintaining healthy microbial community in the intestine of the chickens,” he says. “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.”
The ultimate goal is to help the poultry industry continue to provide a safe product to its consumers.