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Organic egg production- a desk study on sustainable and innovative methods for meeting the hens requirements - OF0357

Description
The overall objective of the work is carry out a desk study to identify novel protein sources for feeding to organic laying hens to enable the hen's essential amino acid requirements for health and welfare to be fully met during lay to avoid the risk of amino acid deficiencies, which in some cases can increase the risk of injurious feather pecking and cannibalism, or may reduce immunocompetence.

In the late 1990s, the growth of the UK and EU organic egg sector was rapid and this was in response to consumer demand. The scientific and technical basis to support the development of organic egg production systems was not sufficient in terms of enabling all of the ideals of an organic egg production system to be met. Thus, derogation allowed the feeding of a small percentage of non-organic feedstuffs on the basis that the hen would not be able to obtain all of her nutrient requirements from a 100% organic feed. This is due to the use of plant protinaceous ingredients (which are imbalanced in their supply of amino acids and deficient in some essential amino acids) and the ban on feeding synthetic essential amino acids, which are relied upon in non-organic egg production systems.

There is an increasing consumer desire and legislative requirement to move to a 100% organic feed, but to do this successfully without harm to the hen and to the environment (avoiding feeding excess protein which will increase the risk of nitrogen pollution) organic sources of essential amino acids are needed. To date it has not been possible to identify solutions through the use of crops which are traditionally fed to livestock in developed countries. This means that there is a need to examine the potential of novel protein sources such as algae, aquatic plants and macroinvertebrates (insects and earthworms).

Some dried algae and aquatic plants are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. Algae and aquatic plants are richly pigmented, and if consumed by organic laying hens in sufficient quantities they might assist in the natural production of desirable yellow-orange yolk colours. Insects and earthworms are rich in protein and they are natural food sources for laying hens. Insects have been a food source for humans for millenia, and so there should be nothing fundamentally objectionable in their use as an organic livestock feed.

The scientific literature will be reviewed to identify possible novel protein sources for feeding organic laying hens. Factors affecting their suitability as protein sources for organic laying hens will include their nutrient supply (particularly the crude protein content, protein digestibility and amino acid supply) and whether there might be benefits or risks to bird health and welfare, the environment (nitrogen pollution), egg quality including taste, and food safety associated with feeding a novel organic protein source. In addition, the potential for a novel organic protein to enhance the nutrient content of organic eggs for humans will be assessed.

The next stage will be to examine the requirements for producing, harvesting and processing the most promising novel protein sources so that an assessment may be made of their suitability for use in organic farming systems. An estimate will be made of the likely cost of the novel organic protein source and this will be discussed in relation to the price of organic soya and the likely cost benefit of feeding the ingredient. This will be important as ingredient price will determine the likely uptake of the project findings, particularly if the price elasticity of organic eggs is low. The price of conventional novel protein sources will be sought for comparison.

The anticipated results will be the identification of a number of novel protein sources for use in UK organic egg production and the effects of these novel (organic) protein sources on bird health and welfare, the environment, egg quality, quantity and nutrient content, and food safety.

The expected benefits arising from the project will be the provision of scientific and technical information which will enable UK egg producers to move towards feeding 100% organic ingredients, as is expected by consumers of organic eggs. By addressing the nutritional needs of organic laying hens, health and welfare problems associated with amino acid deficiencies and/or an excess of dietary protein should be negated. Thus, the sustainability of UK organic egg production will be improved and this is in-line with Defra's policies. It will provide Defra with scientific information which may be used in policy and legislative discussions, both at home and at EU level.




Objective
1. To review the literature on novel protein sources (such as macroinvertebrates, algae and aquatic plants) for feeding organic laying hens.
2. To determine from the literature any benefits or risks to bird health and welfare, which might arise from feeding novel organic protein sources.
3. To determine from the literature the potential impact of novel organic protein sources for organic laying hens on the environment (nitrogen (N) pollution).
4. To determine from the literature any benefits or risks to organic egg quality and food safety, which might arise from feeding novel organic protein sources.
5. To determine from the literature whether novel organic protein sources have an added advantage of being able to enhance the nutrient content of organic eggs for humans.
6. To determine from the literature whether novel protein sources for feeding organic laying hens might be produced in a UK organic farming system.
7. To determine the hypothetical cost and the cost benefit of the most promising novel organically produced protein source so as to assess whether cost is likely to limit its use in feeds for organic laying hens if the elasticity of organic egg price is low.
8. To undertake knowledge transfer activities to communicate key messages arising from the project to Defra, the organic certification bodies, scientific community and the industry.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Organic egg production- a desk study on sustainable and innovative methods for meeting the hens requirements   (283k)
• Final Report - Annex : Organic egg production- a desk study on sustainable and innovative methods for meeting the hens requirements   (166k)
• Final Report - Annex : Organic egg production- a desk study on sustainable and innovative methods for meeting the hens requirements   (585k)
• Final Report - Annex : Organic egg production- a desk study on sustainable and innovative methods for meeting the hens requirements   (123k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2005

To: 2006

Cost: £77,583
Contractor / Funded Organisations
ADAS UK Ltd.
Keywords
Animal Welfare              
Eggs and Poultry              
Farming              
Nitrate              
On-Farm              
Organic Farming              
Poultry              
Fields of Study
Organic Farming