Production Animal Spotlight: Poultry

While global pork and beef consumption has remained unchanged since 1990 chicken consumption has grown 70% and is now the largest processed meat category at 38%. Chickens account for 23 billion of the 30 billion land animals living on farms. With the growing popularity of poultry as a source of protein comes scientific research focused on health and productivity. Poultry nutrition is a major driver of flock efficiency and well-being. The global poultry feed market has been valued at $3.38B USD and is projected to grow at a 4.1% CAGR (2019-2024). Mycotoxin identification and quantitation are vital pieces of data when assessing the quality of poultry feed. Mycotoxins are well characterized toxins produced by molds (or fungi) that grow on a variety of crops and are associated with human and animal disease and death. The impact of mycotoxins on chickens varies by species, age, sex, exposure period, dose, and mycotoxin mix.

Mycotoxins are delivered to and have severe effects on the gastrointestinal tract of chickens influencing energy efficiency and immunity. Common symptoms include reduced feed intake, low weight gain, poor feed efficiency, compromised immunity, reduced hatchability, thin shells, and decreased egg production. Organ damage, commonly liver and kidney, has also been observed and can be lethal. Flocks affected by mycotoxicosis return to normal mortality 1-2 weeks after toxins have been removed from the diet. Mycotoxins of concern in poultry feed include aflatoxin, ochratoxin A, Fumonisin, deoxynivalenol (DON), and T-2.

Mycotoxins have been found to be transferred to the meat and eggs of poultry causing public health concerns. Poultry feed is commonly made of corn (70-75%) with the remainder being primarily comprised of soy (soy, soybean meal, roasted soy). Analysis of feed inputs can be completed onsite with rapid simple quantitative lateral flow strips (see EnviroLogix mycotoxin portfolio) or by sending representative feed samples to an experienced ISO 17025 accredited laboratory. Onsite mycotoxin analysis allows for real-time mycotoxin data enabling contaminated loads to be blended with clean loads to achieve acceptable levels. In addition, onsite mycotoxin assessment allows for the addition of mycotoxin binders to inactivate toxins or biotransformation products which use microbes and enzymes to metabolize the toxins into harmless metabolites. Mycotoxin proliferation can be controlled during storage by limiting the moisture content in feed and by introducing an antifungal application. This however will not control the effects of toxins that have already been produced as toxins are very stable.

In our next newsletter we will explore the explosive growth of the organic and non-GMO chicken market and challenges originating the feed to support this emerging market.

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