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Happier, healthier, more productive hens on omega-3?
Date:7/13/2009

"The EU ruling represents an impending welfare crisis in which millions more laying hens may suffer bone breakage or fractures in the UK each year.

"Fractures vary in severity and often result in gross skeletal damage and even death in some birds. Other than the welfare issue, wastage and loss in production are a considerable financial burden to the industry, reducing economic viability and increasing costs. By feeding the hens on omega-3 we hope to substantially improve their welfare and reduce costs due to injury, with the bonus that the eggs produced are also better for us."

The study will house sixteen flocks of 1,500 hens each in identical dedicated free-range systems provided by Noble Foods.

In the first year the researchers will compare a high omega-3 "Goldenlay" diet, fed from 16 weeks, with a standard diet. In the second year all hens will be fed on the "Goldenlay" diet from 16 weeks but with half transferred to a standard diet at 35 weeks. This will allow the researchers to find out if an omega-3 diet has direct welfare and bone benefits in laying hens, and whether these benefits persist even when taken off the diet.

Dr Tarlton will lead a multidisciplinary team to investigate the benefits of supplemented omega-3 diets in laying hens. They will look at the full biochemical and cellular mechanisms through which omega-3 is able to improve bone health. This research will also relate to osteoporosis in humans, a disease that affects six million sufferers in the UK.

Dr Tarlton added: "By supplementing with omega-3 we hope to be able to retain the environmental benefits of free range systems without incurring a welfare cost in terms of increased bone breakage. Also by studying the mechanisms of improved bone strength we plan to demonstrate how this may help human patients suffering from osteoporosis."


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Contact: Joanne Fryer
joanne.fryer@bristol.ac.uk
44-117-331-7276
University of Bristol
Source:Eurekalert

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