Pasture and Feed Affect Broiler Nutrition

Published in APPPA Grit by Mike Badger in Issue 80

The marketing efforts of many pastured poultry producers focus on the health benefits of their pasture-raised broilers. However, very little published information exists to reinforce the pastured broiler nutrition claims. Producers often extrapolate the nutritional benefits found in grass-fed herbivores, but since a pastured poultry’s diet consists of grain with supplemental forage, such extrapolations may not be accurate. APPPA’s intent in the current study is to expand the testing efforts, adding to the body of research regarding the nutritional qualities of pasture-raised broilers.

In 2000, the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) published a nutritional analysis by Barb Gorski that was conducted by Pennsylvania producers. It showed, among other things, that a 100 gram serving of whole chicken with the meat and skin had an Omega 6:3 ratio of 9:1 and a boneless skinless breast had a ratio of 7:1 [1]. The results from this study appear to have had limited exposure and are only available to APPPA members through the organization’s newsletter archives and in the organization’s book, Raising Poultry on Pasture, Ten years of Success. The Gorski broiler and egg study in 2000, analyzed calories, fatty acid profiles, cholesterol, sodium, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and omega 6:3 ratios. This study also showed the pastured eggs had a 6:3 ratio of 7:1 with vitamin A levels of 1100 IU/100g compared to 18:1 and 635 IU/100g of the USDA’s reference values [1].

In the fall of 2013, APPPA sourced six skin-on boneless breasts from a no-soy/soy feeding trial conducted by Jeff Mattocks at The Fertrell Company. APPPA sampled three broilers from the group eating a no-soy-based ration and three broilers from the group that ate a soy-based ration. Each group contained one of the following broiler breeds: Cornish Cross, Noll 22, and Barred Silver Cross. 

In addition, four non-pasture raised birds were purchased from retail outlets in the Williamsport, Pennsylvania area. A free-range, non-organic chicken was purchased from a health food store. The other three samples included a free-range certified organic chicken, a whole chicken, and a split breast purchased from grocery stores in the area. Each purchased sample was sent to the lab for analysis. The laboratory analyses reported the values for omega 6, omega 3, cholesterol, fatty acids, and vitamins A, D, and E. Analysis was selected based the assumption that omega 6 and 3 and vitamins A, D, and E would be the most likely differences in a pastured poultry production model verses a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) production model. The cholesterol and fatty acid profiles provide additional points of comparison.

The results indicated that the pasture-raised broilers were higher in vitamins D3 and E and had an Omega 6:3 ratio that averaged 5:1. When the results were examined based on the type of feed the birds consumed, the no-soy-fed broilers had an omega 6:3 ratio of 3:1, while the soy-fed broilers had an Omega 6:3 ratio of 8:1.

Read the full report: Pasture and Feed Affect Broiler Nutrition.

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