Poultry Research
For Aviagen, advancing industry research and training the next generation of industry professionals are core values, and the company continually seeks out opportunities to support these priorities.

Aviagen has contributed to the Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC) since 2012. This year for the first time, a portion of its donation will be earmarked for the 'Aviagen/CPRC Post-Graduate Scholarship in Poultry Genetics.'

Continuing its long-term commitment to the CPRC and the Canadian poultry market, this year Aviagen will contribute $25,000 U.S. dollars (more than $32,000 Canadian dollars) to the CPRC’s Research Sponsorship Program. Of this donation, $5,000 will go to an Aviagen/CPRC graduate scholarship in Poultry Genetics, and
Aviagen will play a role in the recipient selection process.

In addition to its support for the CPRC, Aviagen further demonstrates its commitment to Canadian poultry by supporting the country’s university research activities. Advancing the future of the Canadian poultry industry

“Aviagen cares about people in the communities where we have a presence, and supporting the CPRC scholarship and sponsorship program is one way we can demonstrate our commitment to them," says Scott Gillingham, Canadian regional business consultant for Aviagen. "We are honored to be a long-time sponsor of the CPRC, as their research is of considerable importance to the success of the Canadian market. This research benefits numerous stakeholders in the poultry value chain, and ultimately consumers of poultry. We’re extremely excited that the Aviagen graduate student scholarship, in cooperation with the CPRC, will now help to further the education of an aspiring Poultry Genetics professional.”

“Aviagen’s support throughout the years has helped us fund many research projects addressing critical issues such as poultry health and welfare, antibiotic-free production, food safety and environmental sustainability. In addition to the funding, Aviagen supports us by offering ongoing advice on these and other research topics and issues facing our industry,” adds Dr. Bruce Roberts, executive director of the CPRC. “By designating part of its contribution for education, Aviagen further demonstrates its dedication to the advancement of the current and future Canadian poultry industry.”

Call for submissions
The field of poultry genetics offers exciting career opportunities. Aviagen would like to encourage interested students to apply for the 'Aviagen/CPRC Post-Graduate Scholarship in Poultry Genetics' at http://cp-rc.ca/funding/scholarships/aviagen/ before the deadline of Nov. 15.
Published in Company News
Feedback from across Alberta’s livestock industry is helping to build a clear and comprehensive understanding of livestock welfare in the province, as part of the Livestock Welfare Engagement Project facilitated by Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC).

An important online survey component of the project launched over the summer is already seeing strong participation across the industry.

Those who haven’t yet participated in the survey are encouraged to do so as soon as possible, ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline. (Click here to complete the survey).

“Broad industry feedback is critical to accurately represent the extensive work being done related to livestock care in Alberta today, and to help shape future priorities and direction around this increasingly high-profile component of livestock production,” says Annemarie Pedersen, executive director, AFAC.

Next Phase
“We have been very encouraged by the strong initial participation in the survey, which is open to anyone involved in animal agriculture in Alberta,” says Dr. Melissa Moggy, Livestock Welfare Engagement Project Lead.

With the initial consultation completed and the survey underway, planning for the focus groups is in full swing. “Our first of five focus groups will be at Grande Prairie Regional College, Fairview Campus, on Sept 20th and we hope anyone involved in the industry will join us for an in-depth discussion of livestock welfare in Alberta,” says Moggy. The results will be a critical part of the final report to be shared with government in early 2019.

Locations and details for these additional focus groups can be found below. Focus groups will be arranged by invitation, based on survey responses. However, those who are interested in participating in their area can register.

Grande Prairie Regional College – Fairview, Alta. - Sept. 20 
Lethbridge College – Lethbridge, Alta. - Sept. 25
Olds College – Olds, Alta. - Oct. 2 
University of Alberta – Edmonton, Alta. - Oct. 10
Lakeland College – Vermillion, Alta. - TBA

“We encourage all livestock sectors and industry partners to participate in the upcoming groups. We have planned them to be accessible to the majority of the province and hope to meet with a diverse cross section of our industry,” says Moggy.

Information on the focus groups can be found at www.afac.ab.ca or contact Melissa Moggy at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or 403-652-5111 to register.

About the Livestock Welfare Engagement Project
The project was requested and is being funded by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. The insights and information collected through this project will be presented in a final report, which will be shared with the Government of Alberta to support its understanding of the animal welfare landscape in the province from the livestock industry’s perspective.
Published in Welfare
As the world population continues to escalate, so too does the concern around air quality. So, what about in your barn? What is the air quality like in and around a poultry facility? Is there a risk to human health?
Published in Broilers
Nesting behaviour in laying hens is complex, and according to poultry scientists such as Dr. Michelle Hunniford of the department of animal biosciences at the University of Guelph in Ontario, there’s a lot left to discover.
Published in Layers
Researchers at the University of Iowa have developed a mobile system that can inactivate avian influenza virus.

A significant issue for the poultry industry is the disposal of bird carcasses and manure when they are contaminated with avian influenza virus.

According to the "Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Response Plan" developed by the USDA, there is a clear need for better disposal technology.

One intriguing way forward is to heat the carcasses and manure in a mobile trailer to quickly react to outbreaks before they can spread. The trailer would hold multiple gasifiers, which would be used to heat up the trailer. From there, a conveyor system would take the carcasses and manure through the trailer until the virus is destroyed. The gasifiers use a solid fuel like seed corn or wood chips to provide the energy at very low cost and produce an in-situ charcoal bed that breaks down organic pollutants.

The University of Iowa has more than four years of experience in operating an industrial scale gasifier based on these principles and uses it in conjunction with lab testing and computer modeling to understand and predict general gasification behavior. The focus of this research project was to study the issues involved in trailer gasification and avian influenza virus elimination.

Project #BRU008: Analysis of Poultry Gasification Parameters for Elimination of Avian Flu Exposed Birds and Manure, was conducted by Dr. Albert Ratner, University of Iowa.

The project was recently completed by Ratner and colleagues in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University. They developed the design for a mobile system to heat poultry carcasses and manure to inactivate avian influenza virus. This system could be utilized during an avian influenza outbreak to quickly help eliminate the virus from infected farms and better contain the spread of an outbreak.

For more information, visit: http://www.uspoultry.org/
To veiw the full research report, CLICK HERE
Published in New Technology
Considering the average carbon footprint of chicken around the world, Canadian chicken has one of the lowest carbon footprint of all.

This is a key result coming from a recent Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) conducted by Groupe AGÉCO, a consultation firm specializing in corporate social responsibility and economic studies; the study was designed to measure the environmental and social performance of Canada's chicken sector, from hatching egg to processor.

The Environmental Footprint – Key findings
  • Since 1976, environmental performance significantly improved because of major productivity gains and significant improvements in feed conversion ratio.
  • Per kilogram of protein, the carbon footprint of Canadian chicken is lower than that of other livestock commodities produced in North America based on FAO's assessment of global livestock emissions.
  • In the last 40 years, the carbon footprint of the sector was reduced by 37 per cent.
  • Water consumption has been reduced by 45 per cent in the same timeframe.
  • 62% of the entire sector's total energy use comes from renewable sources, with chicken feed accounting for the bulk of renewable energy consumption.
The Social Performance
Canada's chicken farmers are committed to food safety & animal care: Canadian chicken farmers are certified on the mandatory Raised by a Canadian Farmer On-Farm Food Safety Program (OFFSP) and Animal Care Program (ACP), both of which are 3rd party audited.

After eliminating Category I antibiotics (the most important for human medicine) on the farm, Canada's farmers have committed to eliminating the preventive use of Category II antibiotics by the end of 2018 and a goal had been set to eliminate the preventive use of Category III antibiotics by the end of 2020.

Dedicated social license: Over 90 per cent of Canadian chicken farmers are engaged in their communities by providing free services to community members or by being engaged in municipal or regional organizations.

Competitive working conditions: Over 90 per cent of Canadian chicken farmers pay their workers a salary over the provincial minimum wage and about 70 per cent offer their employees benefits such as insurance and bonuses in addition to other benefits in kind.

A Pledge for Continual Improvement
For Canadian chicken farmers, sustainability means protecting animal health and welfare, ensuring worker and community wellbeing, preserving the health of the land and of Canadian farms and contributing to the Canadian economy by providing affordable food to Canadians.

Benoît Fontaine, Chair of Chicken Farmers of Canada affirms that, "Our sustainability journey is a process of continual improvement. We have come a long way with the implementation of on-farm programs, and with the growth in our industry which has contributed to the Canadian economy and helps support rural communities. But we'll always have more work to do and we will continually evolve to improve our practices and deliver on the expectations of Canadian consumers."

Background
An LCA is an internationally recognized approach to assess the impacts associated with all of the stages of a product's life – in this case chicken. There is a well-established protocol for LCA subject to an ISO standardized methodology. LCAs can help an industry determine which aspects of their production are most efficient, and where they can improve efficiencies, reduce environmental impacts, or improve social interactions along their entire value chains.

The LCA provides the chicken industry with benchmarks for its impact on climate change, natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystem quality, and human health, while the social LCA provides a qualitative assessment of the industry's socioeconomic performance.

Conducting an LCA is part of our strategy to support our industry's work in maintaining consumer and buyer confidence that supply chain risks are adequately addressed. It can also improve industry's social licence and assurance to consumers that chicken is safe, and produced in an efficient and responsible way.

People care deeply about their food, about knowing where it comes from and that what they are serving to their family and friends is of the highest quality; our farmers and their families are no different. So when we say that the Canadian chicken industry is good for Canadians, it's because we know that we're raising our chickens to the highest standards: yours.

To find out more about our LCA results, check out this new infographic: https://www.chickenfarmers.ca/resources/sustainability-assessment-of-the-canadian-chicken-value-chain/

Published in Broilers
What came first, the chicken or the lettuce?

Iowa State University researchers are conducting experiments to determine what advantages may arise from integrating chickens into vegetable production systems.

The researchers must balance a range of concerns, including environmental sustainability, costs and food and animal safety. But Ajay Nair, an associate professor of horticulture and a vegetable production specialist for ISU Extension and Outreach, said finding ways to integrate vegetable and animal production may lead to greater efficiency and healthier soils.

The experiments, currently in their second year, take place at the ISU Horticulture Research Station just north of Ames. The researchers are testing what happens when a flock of broiler chickens lives on a vegetable field for part of the year.

The chickens forage on the plant matter left behind after the vegetables are harvested and fertilize the soil with manure. This integrated approach could reduce off-farm inputs and also provide producers with sustainable crop rotation options.

The researchers are testing three different systems on a half acre of land at the research farm. The first system involves a vegetable crop – one of several varieties of lettuce or broccoli – early in the growing season, followed by the chickens, which are then followed by a cover crop later in the year.

The second system involves the vegetable crop, followed by two months of a cover crop, with the chickens foraging on the land later in the year. The third system is vegetables followed by cover crops, with no chickens.

The experiment involves roughly 40 chickens, which live in four mobile coops that the researchers move every day. Moving the coops around ensures the chickens have access to fresh forage and keeps their manure from concentrating any particular part of the field. An electric fence surrounds the field to keep out predators.

Moriah Bilenky, a graduate assistant in horticulture, checks on the chickens every morning to make sure they have food and water. She also weighs them periodically to collect data on how efficiently they convert food into body mass. The researchers designed the trial to uphold animal health, and Bilenky said she keeps a detailed log on how foraging in the fields impacts the birds’ health and performance.

Nair said the researchers are looking at several facets associated with sustainability. Nitrogen and phosphorous deposited in the soil from the chicken manure could alleviate some of the need for fertilizer application, while working cover crops into the system can prevent the loss of nutrients into waterways. Economics must also factor into the research, he said.

“We might come up with results that really help the soil, but if the system is not economically stable, I doubt growers will be willing to adopt it because it has to work for their bottom line as well,” he said.

The trials also adhere to food safety regulations. For instance, all vegetables are harvested before the chickens are introduced to the fields, ensuring none of the produce is contaminated. The researchers consulted food safety and animal science experts at Iowa State while designing their experiments, and the work undergoes regular IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) inspection and documentation, he said.

The trials remain ongoing, so the researchers aren’t drawing any conclusions yet about the success of their integrated system. The project is currently supported through a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant. Nair said he’s seeking additional funding to investigate the animal health and integrated pest management aspects of this research.

So why did the chicken cross the road? It’s too early to tell, but maybe so it could get into the lettuce and pepper fields.
Published in Environment
Alltech presented the 35th Alltech Student Research Manuscript Award to Cristiano Bortoluzzi, a doctoral student at the University of Georgia, during the 107th annual Poultry Science Association (PSA) meeting, held in San Antonio, Texas, on July 23 to 26.

This award is given to a student who is the senior author of an outstanding research manuscript in Poultry Science or The Journal of Applied Poultry Research, and only students awarded Certificates of Excellence for research presentations at an annual PSA meeting can compete.

Bortoluzzi’s winning paper — entitled “Sodium butyrate improved performance while modulating the cecal microbiota and regulating the expression of intestinal immune-related genes of broiler chickens” — evaluated the effect of sodium butyrate (SB) on performance, expression of immune-related genes in the cecal tonsils, and cecal microbiota of broiler chickens when dietary energy and amino acids concentrations were reduced.

The paper results confirmed that SB had positive effects on the productive performance of broilers fed nutritionally reduced diets, partially by modulating the cecal microbiota and exerting immune modulatory effects.

"Alltech is proud to sponsor this award, as innovation is the core of our business," said Dr. Kayla Price, poultry technical manager for Alltech Canada. “We support advancements in the poultry industry and encourage students to publish their research and communicate their discoveries, which can positively influence the future of poultry production."

Cristiano Bortoluzzi is a doctor of veterinary medicine and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the department of poultry science at the University of Georgia.

He grew up on a farm in southern Brazil with dairy cows, pigs and poultry, so his passion for animal production started when he was young and has influenced his career path.

Bortoluzzi completed several internships in his first year of vet school and found that poultry nutrition and health interested him the most.

Throughout his studies, he was actively involved in research trials, attended scientific meetings and learned about the intestinal health/immune system of broilers and the importance of nutrition.

While working toward his master’s degree, he spent three months working with the United States Department of Agriculture/Agriculture Research Service (USDA/ARS) in Indiana.

In January 2015, he started his Ph.D. in animal science at Purdue University, later moving to the University of Georgia. Bortoluzzi has published 18 papers and will finish his Ph.D. in the fall. He is looking forward to working in and contributing his expertise to the poultry industry.

Alltech has sponsored the Alltech Student Research Manuscript Award since 2000, recognizing young leaders in scientific innovation for their commitment to publishing and sharing their work within the poultry sector.
Published in Researchers
High stocking densities significantly impact the health, welfare and performance of tom turkeys. That’s according to newly completed research by Dr. Karen Schwean-Lardner and master’s student Kailyn Beaulac at the University of Saskatchewan’s department of animal and poultry science.
Published in Turkeys
A team of investigators have isolated colistin-resistant Escherichia coli from a commercial poultry farm in China. Colistin is an antibiotic of last resort against certain bacteria. The research is published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

In the study, as part of ongoing surveillance, the researchers from Key Laboratory of Sichuan Province, Sichuan University collected rectal swabs from randomly selected chickens in multiple commercial chicken farms in China.

The researchers found that E. coli from the chickens often carried multiple resistance genes, including one copy of the colistin-resistance gene mcr-1, and one copy of the resistance gene, mcr-3. This is the first report of these two genes on a single plasmid. | READ MORE
Published in News
Vast amounts of data are being collected on Canada’s farms through the advent of precision agriculture technology and the Internet of Things (IOT).

Many types of tools, equipment and devices gather data on everything from crop yields to how many steps an animal takes in a day. However, much of that data is underutilized because it’s collected by systems that don’t or can’t communicate with each other.

The need for better decision-making on farms through better data use resulted in Ontario Precision Agri-Food (OPAF), a partnership of agricultural organizations led by Ontario Agri-Food Technologies (OAFT) that’s developing an open agri-food innovation platform to connect and share data.

The goal, according to lead director Dr. Karen Hand of Precision Strategic Solutions, is getting data, wherever it exists (both data repositories in industry or government and data generated by countless sensors) so it can be used to help advance important food production issues like food safety, traceability and plant and animal disease surveillance.

For example, information about the prevalence and control of insect pests like cutworms that damage soybean crops lies with many different people and organizations, including university and government researchers, crop advisors, input suppliers and farmers.

“There is no single spot where all of the information about a particular pest can be accessed in a robust, science-based system and used in decision-making and that’s where OPAF’s platform will help,” Hand says.

Pilot projects are underway with Ontario’s grain, dairy and poultry producers to identify their needs in areas like crop protection, sustainability and food safety and how OPAF can provide data-driven solutions to benefit farmers.

“We sit down with farmers, advisors, associations, government and researchers to find out what data they have, where they exist and if we were able to connect them, what value or benefit that would offer participants – either specific to the commodity they are producing or on larger food-related issues such as food safety or impact on trade,” she explains.

And OPAF’s efforts are gaining global recognition. Earlier this year, Internet of Food and Farm 2020, a large project in the European Union exploring the potential of IOT technologies of European food and farming, recognized OPAF as one of three global projects to collaborate with.

“This is going to be changing the face of data enablement in Canada and contributing globally,” says Tyler Whale of Ontario Agri-Food Technologies (OAFT). “We are creating a platform that is the base of something new, and although we are piloting this in Ontario, it will be available nationwide to those who want to use it.”

OPAF partners include OAFT, University of Guelph, University of Waterloo, Niagara College, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Livestock Research Innovation Corporation, Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Farm Credit Canada, Ontario Agri-Business Association, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, and Golden Horseshoe Farm and Food Alliance.

This project was funded by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists with GF2 delivery in Ontario.
Published in New Technology
Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) is involved in a new initiative called the Livestock Welfare Engagement Project. The goal of this project is a collaborative look at animal welfare in Alberta’s livestock industry, where AFAC will facilitate the collection of input from individuals and organizations across the sector.

The insights and information collected through this project will be presented in a final report, which will be shared with the Government of Alberta to support its understanding of the animal welfare landscape in the province from the livestock industry’s perspective. The Livestock Welfare Engagement Project was requested and is being funded by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

Your voice matters – Everyone encouraged to participate
“Livestock welfare is important to all industry stakeholders, as well as the bodies that regulate the sector, and practices continue to change and evolve. This project will provide every stakeholder – from individual farmers and ranchers to producer association groups, veterinarians and all others – the opportunity to share their insight into what is happening in their sector today,” says Annemarie Pedersen, AFAC executive director. “These diverse insights will be critical in creating a clear picture of the extensive work being done related to animal welfare in Alberta today, and in providing direction for the future.”

Industry input required
One of the most important parts of the project is the project survey. This survey is now online and is open to anyone in Alberta who is involved in animal agriculture in the province. Individuals and organizations of all kinds across the industry are invited and encouraged to participate. The survey is designed to incorporate four categories: 1) organizations, 2) abattoir & auction markets, 3) individuals (e.g. producers), and 4) students.

Click here to complete the survey

The survey is open until October 31st. Participants are encouraged to complete the survey as soon as possible. Any participants falling under more than one category are welcome to complete multiple surveys.

"Sharing and redistribution of this survey is requested. The more responses gathered, the clearer the final picture of Alberta’s livestock sector will be," says Pedersen. "Industry associations such as producer and commodity organizations are encouraged to circulate this information to their members and stakeholders and we encourage them to participate as well."

Key components of the overall project include a preliminary engagement consultation session (completed in March), the online project survey (now underway), focus groups (to follow) and development of the final report. If you have questions on which survey version to complete or on other aspects of the project, please contact AFAC.
Published in Welfare
In 2014/2015 an outbreak of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (AI) struck British Columbia. A total of 13 poultry farms were affected and approximately 240,000 birds died or were destroyed to control the outbreak.

In addition, the disease was detected in the U.S. where more than 48 million birds were lost and the outbreak was estimated to have cost US$3.3 billion and resulted in shortages and price increases for certain poultry products.

Wild waterfowl are known to be the reservoir for AI, and although wild bird AI surveillance programs were already in place in Canada and the U.S., it was limited to collecting and testing individual wild birds.

To improve the surveillance to include environmental monitoring, in 2015 the BC Ministry of Agriculture, BC Centre for Disease Control Public Health Laboratory, and University of British Columbia joined forces to develop a new approach - a genomics-based test that identifies and characterizes AI viruses (AIV) in wetland sediments.

This work, funded in part by Genome British Columbia (Genome BC) and led by Drs. Chelsea Himsworth, Jane Pritchard, William Hsiao, Natalie Prystajecky, and Agatha Jassem, successfully demonstrated that this novel approach worked, as AIV was detected in a significant proportion of sediment samples, compared to less than one percent rate of detection in the current Canadian national wild bird AI surveillance program.

Additionally, the outbreak virus was found in wetlands throughout the Fraser Valley, information that could have been used to mitigate the outbreak had this technology been available.

To further evaluate this novel surveillance approach, a new project, Genomic Analysis of Wetland Sediment as a Tool for Avian Influenza Surveillance and Prevention, represents a combined investment of over $2.5 million from funders and delivery partners including Genome BC, the BC Ministry of Agriculture, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC, and the Sustainable Poultry Farming Group.

This phase follows on from previous work and is looking at what steps are required to move the technology from a successful proof-of-concept initiative to implementation. This includes scientific validation of technology, as well as its incorporation into Provincial and National Wild Waterfowl AI Surveillance Programs. It is anticipated that this innovative approach will be adopted nationally and internationally for surveillance of AI and/or other diseases associated with wildlife.

"This investment allows Dr. Himsworth and the team to refine and validate the AI sediment surveillance with genomics technologies, methodology and field approach," says Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, chief scientific officer and vice president, sectors, at Genome BC. "Most importantly it allows for the identification of the optimal combination of AI surveillance techniques for maximum efficiency and efficacy."
Published in Health
Auburn University's College of Agriculture, in conjunction with other schools around the nation, will conduct a study to ensure that poultry litter does not pollute surface waters with excessive amounts of phosphorous.

The three-year study is being performed to combat the 1.8 million tons of waste produced annually in Alabama from its $15 billion poultry industry.

Phosphorous-rich poultry litter is a big concern in Alabama and other states where the litter is used to fertilize fields. If the nutrient leaks into waterways, it can cause toxic algae blooms which can lead to deficient oxygen levels and destruction of life in the water.

The study will look at the Sand Mountain region of North Alabama and a row-crop field in Wisconsin, two large agro-ecosystems that are currently having issues with managing their phosphorous levels. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.
Published in Environment
Chicken farmers in the Philippines will soon test their birds for deadly pathogens with a new hand-held device and smartphone app they can use on their own farms.

It will help farmers act fast before disease can spread and potentially infect people. It also cuts out the need to send samples away for expensive lab tests.

A team of scientists lead by Brunel University London will develop a molecular test and a smartphone app that, when used together, detect six key pathogens in poultry.

Farmers will collect samples from their birds using a large-matchbox-sized instrument that screens the DNA and RNA. The device connects wirelessly to the app to display the results, which can can also feed into a central store to help track outbreaks across the islands. The whole process takes less than an hour. | For the full story, CLICK HERE
Published in News
USPOULTRY and the USPOULTRY Foundation announce the completion of a funded research project at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., in which a researcher showed how infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) can spread from vaccinated flocks.

Dr. Maricarmen Garcia, at the University of Georgia, recently completed a research project that studied how well a recombinant ILT vaccine protected broilers when various doses of the vaccine were used.

She found that all dosage levels used protected against the clinical signs of the disease, but none of the dosage levels prevented the broilers from shedding the ILT challenge virus to other broilers. This study reinforces the observation that biosecurity is very important to control spread of ILT from vaccinated flocks.

The research summary can be found on the USPOULTRY website, www.uspoultry.org.
Published in Health
The results of a study recently published in the prestigious international journal Science Advances have enabled researchers to better understand the role of eggshells in embryo development and hatching.

The objective of the study, conducted by an international research team led by Marc McKee from McGill University in Canada and involving the participation of scientists from the University of Granada (UGR), was to analyse the nanostructure of chicken eggshells.

The findings could be used to produce healthier, more robust eggs by providing researchers with the means to genetically select laying hens with specific characteristics.

An eggshell is made up of both organic and inorganic matter that contains calcium carbonate. One of the important findings of the study was that the nanostructure was closely linked to the presence of osteopontin, a protein which is also found in bones.

Eggshell transformation process
Eggshells are strong enough to resist fractures during the incubation period. However, they gradually weaken as the hatching period approaches to make it easier for the chicks to break through the shell.

The eggshell weakens as its internal layer dissolves, releasing calcium which, in turn, is needed by the embryo for bone formation.

The study found that this process is made possible as a result of the changes that occur in the eggshell nanostructure during the incubation period.

Implications for food safety
Furthermore, the researchers were able to recreate similar nanostructures to those they discovered in the eggshells by using proteins, specifically by adding osteopontin to mineral crystals grown in the lab.

The team add that: “A better understanding of the role of proteins in the calcification process that strengthens the eggshell structure could have significant implications for food safety.”

According to the team, which includes Alejandro B. Rodríguez Navarro from the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology (UGR), approximately 10 per cent of all eggs break or crack before consumption, which increases the risk of food poisoning and infections such as Salmonella.

Understanding how the different mineral nanostructures contribute to strengthening the eggshell could allow scientists to genetically select laying hens based on specific traits, which would put healthier, more resistant eggs into circulation.

However, studying the internal structure of eggshells can be challenging because of the ease with which they break when under analysis. To overcome this obstacle, the team used a focused ion beam sectioning system that allowed them to accurately cut the samples out of the eggshells and study them using electron microscopy.

The full pager is avaliable here: https://canal.ugr.es/noticia/study-healthier-robust-eggs/
Published in Health
As it did for most livestock species, substantial genetic improvement in turkeys started in the 21st century. In the 1960s, hybridization of turkey varieties began, followed by the development of pedigree programs for large white turkeys in the 1970s.
Published in Genetics
Although research into the effects of LED lighting for poultry is ongoing, data often appears inconsistent. In addition, experts have focused less on behavioural and welfare aspects as compared to production.
Published in Welfare
Research has shown that the consumption of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids provides a myriad of health benefits, including lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and death.

Yet, few Americans are consuming enough of this vital nutrient to reap those benefits, a deficiency researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences hope to change by fortifying foods people frequently eat — eggs and chicken — with the heart healthy long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

"With the incidence of obesity, heart disease and insulin resistance increasing toward epidemic proportions in the United States, people must make changes to improve their health," said Kevin Harvatine, associate professor of nutritional physiology in the Department of Animal Science.

"Production of nutritionally enriched eggs and poultry meat will help consumers meet health goals and help egg and poultry producers to increase the value of their products."

Harvatine and Robert Elkin, professor of avian nutritional biochemistry, have collaborated in this research area since 2011, conducting numerous studies at the Penn State Poultry Education and Research Center with both laying hens and broiler (meat-type) chickens. Elkin has expertise in poultry nutrition and a long history of work aimed at modifying egg cholesterol content, while Harvatine has expertise in lipid (fat) nutrition and metabolism in dairy cattle.

The researchers explained that alpha-linolenic acid is an 18-carbon omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans, nut oils and leafy vegetables. It is one of two essential fatty acids that the human body cannot produce on its own but is vital for cardiovascular, cognitive and immune system health. It also is touted for its anti-inflammatory properties.

The other essential fatty acid, linoleic acid, is an 18-carbon omega-6 fatty acid commonly found in corn, many vegetable oils, and a wide variety of snacks and fast foods. While omega-6 fatty acids can be beneficial, consuming too much — which many people do — is not good because it promotes inflammation, Elkin pointed out.

In addition, linoleic and linolenic acids compete for the same set of enzymes in the liver that convert them into longer-chain derivatives, which have opposing functions in the inflammatory process. As a result, when the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids favors the former, fewer heart-healthy long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are produced by the liver and transported to tissues such as the brain and retina, where they have other important physiological functions.

Harvatine said omega-3 needs vary, but, in general, healthy adults should set a target of about 250 milligrams per day of each of the two most important types: eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid — commonly referred to as EPA and DHA, respectively. For people with known heart disease, higher dietary intakes are recommended.

EPA and DHA contain a greater number of carbon atoms and unsaturated double bonds, and because their consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, they are referred to as the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Foods rich in long-chain omega-3s include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring; however, few people eat two to three servings each week per American Heart Association recommendations.

"Some people don't like fish, can't eat it due to allergies, or simply can't afford it," Harvatine said. "Whatever the reason, most don't meet the requirement. And, if every person on the planet ate the number of fish needed to achieve omega-3 targets, there would be no fish left — it is just not sustainable."

While over-the-counter supplements are available, the researchers believe it is better to reach omega-3 nutritional targets through food such as enriched poultry meat and eggs because, as Elkin noted, "it's perhaps a more effective way to reach a greater number of people who are concerned about health risks (methylmercury) associated with consumption of certain fish species, the sustainability and environmental effects of aquaculture, or simply prefer to not eat fish for a variety of reasons."

Eggs find their way onto American plates with frequency. According to the American Egg Board, per capita consumption of eggs is about 267 a year, which works out to about five eggs per person per week. In addition, Americans consumed approximately 91 pounds of chicken per person in 2017, according to the National Chicken Council.

Unlike typical nutritionally enhanced eggs found in grocery stores, Harvatine's and Elkin's goal is to create poultry products that are richer in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids but lower in omega-6 fatty acids. Although the chicken is able to convert the 18-carbon omega-3 fatty acid found in plants to the heart-healthy long-chain omega-3s, the process is very inefficient. Humans also have a very limited ability to convert linolenic acid to EPA and DHA.

In a recent study published in Lipids, Elkin and Harvatine hypothesized that reducing the dietary level of linoleic acid (the 18-carbon omega-6 fatty acid) would promote greater conversion in the liver of linolenic acid to EPA and DHA, while supplementing the hens' diets with a high-oleic acid soybean oil would simultaneously further enrich eggs with oleic acid without influencing egg EPA and DHA contents.

Oleic acid is the principal fatty acid found in olive oil, which is the main fat source in the Mediterranean diet, heralded as one of the healthiest diets for cardiovascular disease prevention.

The researchers found that, as compared to controls, supplemental dietary flaxseed oil resulted in an enrichment of egg yolks with EPA and DHA, but simultaneously supplementing the hens’ diet with both flaxseed oil and high-oleic soybean oil maximally reduced the yolk deposition of linolenic acid, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and total omega-3 fatty acids by 37 per cent, 15 per cent, and 32 per cent respectively.

These results suggested that dietary oleic acid was not neutral with regard to the overall process by which dietary linolenic acid was absorbed, metabolized and deposited into egg yolk, either intact or in the form of longer chain/more unsaturated omega-3 fatty acid derivatives.

Based on their knowledge of fatty acid metabolism, as well as triglyceride positional analyses of the experimental oils, Elkin and Harvatine hypothesized that oleic acid may simply have out-competed linolenic acid for absorption from the intestine, which ultimately would result in less omega-3 fatty acid enrichment of egg yolks.

In addition to being the first study to report this, according to Elkin, the findings also have implications for human nutrition because the initial steps of intestinal fat digestion and absorption are similar in chickens and humans.

"It is possible that oils rich in oleic acid might hinder the body's ability to reap the full nutritional benefits of EPA and DHA if consumed along with fatty fish or omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such as fish oil capsules."

"This also could be occurring in people consuming a Mediterranean diet, in which oleic acid-rich olive oil is the principal source of fat, and moderate to low amounts of fish are eaten," he added.

Studies are underway to confirm this finding in laying hens with other oils that are rich in oleic acid, in order to demonstrate that it is an "oleic acid effect" and not an effect that is specific for high-oleic soybean oil only.

"The importance of this research to the (egg) industry is that we have learned of a potential new hindrance to enriching eggs with omega-3 fatty acids, and that information can be used when trying to develop the next generation of ‘designer’ eggs," Elkin said.

Undergraduate student Alexandra Kukorowski, a Schreyer Honors Scholar, contributed to the research.

The Pennsylvania Soybean Board and the Pennsylvania Poultry Industry Egg Research Check-Off Program supported this work.
Published in Researchers
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