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Chicken Diet

September 11, 2007

Special diets are helping curb the environmental impact of chickens.


A lower-impact diet for chickens. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In recent years, many of America’s chickens have changed their diets. The goal isn’t to trim their thighs, but to reduce the amount of phosphorus in their waste: phosphorus that finds its way into waterways and causes toxic algal blooms that kill fish. The key to the diet is an enzyme called phytase, which helps the chickens break down the natural phosphorus in their feed. University of Delaware animal and food scientist Bill Saylor and his colleagues, who spent years fine-tuning the diet, recently assessed its impact on local waters.

BILL SAYLOR (University of Delaware):
The bottom line is that the phytase works in terms of reducing phosphorus load to the environment, without creating any problems for the bird itself.

In Delaware alone, the efforts have helped reduce phosphorus pollution from chicken farms by two to three million pounds per year. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.