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Saturday Chicken 'Should be Organic'

19 October 2012, at 2:23pm

DENMARK - Some people believe that organic chicken is the ideal meat to serve if you would like a delicious and healthy meal. To convince more consumers into this way of thinking and to increase the demand for organic chicken, scientists at Aarhus University are working on different strategies in order to produce chickens of distinctive quality.

In the research project, the effect of different feeding strategies, chicken breeds and time of slaughter on meat quality and health and welfare of the chickens is being investigated.

French or Danish?

Three different organic breeds are used in the project. One of them is the Hubbard breed JA757, one of the most commonly used breeds in organic broiler production in Denmark. The two other breeds are French. They are slower-growing than JA757 and also differ in their behaviour, being generally more sociable and explorative. Behaviour may, however, also be influenced by the feeding strategy.

The tendency of the French chickens to explore can make a difference when they are outdoors and are able to forage since part of the experiment involves an outdoor area. All the chickens in the experiment will be given access to an outdoor foraging area with different herbs and grasses where their intake of greenery, seeds, insects and larvae will meet part of their nutrient requirements.

Choice feeding

The scientists are also testing two feeding strategies. One strategy consists of a normal organic ration supplemented with whole wheat grain. The other strategy is based on a feed made up of different Danish-grown ingredients such as rapeseed, lupins and peas. The chickens are also given a choice of whole wheat and whole oats.

"We are interested in whether the chicken breed and feeding strategy have an effect on their use of the outdoor area. We will also look at how much foraging contributes to their intake of nutrients," says senior scientist Sanna Steenfeldt from Aarhus University.

The chickens are slaughtered at different ages to determine if this has an effect on the meat quality for the different breeds and feeding strategies.

The study on broilers is part of the large SUMMER project, which has the ambition of increasing consumer demand for organic meat.

The three-year project is an Organic RDD project under the Organic Research, Development and Demonstration (GUDP) programme. The project is funded by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries and is coordinated by ICROFS. Besides Aarhus University, project participants include the Knowledge Centre for Agriculture and the Development Centre for Free-Range Farming. The project runs until end 2013.