According to NC State’s Dr. Peter Ferket, when you feed an animal is just as important as what you feed it. During the poultry breakout session at Alltech’s symposium, Ferket explained how this concept can produce quality poultry.
Ferket explained that poultry traits can be influenced via programmed nutrition, which refers to the timed delivery of key nutrients early in an animal’s life. The timing of nutrient delivery can affect the genes expressed in the animal.
As Ferket said, “the first meal makes the difference.” Ferket used the example of in ovo feeding in chickens to explain this concept. “In ovo feeding” refers to providing nutrients when the bird is an embryo. By supplying chickens with highly digestible nutrients via in ovo feeding, their gene expression can be altered.
According to Ferket, gene chip technology indicated that 43 out of 120 genes tested were expressed differently with in ovo feeding. Gene expression changes due to in ovo feeding can result in improved skeletal health, advanced gut development, advanced muscle growth, improved feed conversion, and enhanced immune function.
Ferket said that the nutrients a chick receives during the first 90 hours of its life can also affect whether it will be able to use these nutrients later in life. When certain levels of calcium and phosphorus were provided early in a bird’s life, expression of a protein in the smaller intestine increased. An increase in this protein allowed greater calcium and phosphorus absorption throughout the bird’s life.
Ferket explained that great potential for influencing meat quality with programmed nutrition exists. For example, programmed nutrition diets have produced breast meat with reduced cooking losses and improved oxidative stability or freshness.
Learn more about meat produced using programmed nutrition by checking out Alltech’s newly unveiled Lyons Farm poultry and beef.