Giving chickens whole grain is championed to lift meat production

Adding whole grains to chicken feed boosts meat production efficiency and could improve global food security. It’s also likely to be good for backyard chickens, says Sydney scientist Amy Moss.
Amy’s research at the University of Sydney’s Poultry Research Foundation found that replacing some of the ground grain in chickens’ feed with whole grain both improved their digestion, and how efficiently they produced meat.
Chickens have a muscular organ called a gizzard in their digestive tract, which grinds the feed they eat so that it can be digested.
“We traditionally feed poultry pellets of finely ground ingredients,” says Amy.
“Chickens fed these diets don’t use their gizzards and so these organs get very flabby.”
“If you add more whole grains to chickens’ diets their gizzards get a workout, and just like us when we work out, the gizzard gets more muscle.”
As the fitter gizzard grinds up the feed it stimulates gastric juices which leads to the chicken producing more meat per kilo of feed eaten.
“I found that by replacing 30 per cent of ground grain with whole grain the chickens produced 7.7 per cent more meat per kilo of feed eaten,” says Amy. “And it also reduced the cost of milling and making the feed.”
“If more chickens around the world were fed whole grain, we could meet the protein requirements of roughly 114 million more people, equivalent to the population of Australia nearly five times over.”
Amy hasn’t tested her ideas on laying chickens but expects they would also benefit from some whole grain in their diet.
Amy is presenting her research at the 29th Australian Poultry Science Symposium, which starts in Sydney on Monday next week.
She is a PhD candidate at the Poultry Research Foundation at the University of Sydney, where she is researching how to improve poultry performance through better nutrition. Her research has been partially funded by the AgriFutures Australia Chicken Meat programme.