The British supermarket Waitrose has introduced what it calls "the UK’s first chicken that is a source of omega-3." The omega-3 chicken is produced by Moy Park, one of the largest chicken companies in Europe and part of the Brazilian meat giant JBS, on a number of family farms in Northern Ireland. The project has taken a decade to bring to market.
The chickens are enriched with the omega-3 fatty acids by feeding the birds a diet containing an algae - the family of aquatic plants that includes kelp and seaweed - naturally rich in omega-3. The animals are produced to Waitrose’s bespoke high welfare standards, which includes plenty of natural light and more space than the industry standards. Birds fed on a diet enriched with omega-3 are not reared with other flocks. "All our poultry is fully traceable from pack right back to the breeder flock from which the chicks came," a spokesman for Moy Park says.
Both Moy Park and Waitrose stress that the taste and appearance of the chicken is the same as birds reared on a conventional diet. There is also no difference in the production process, Moy Park adds. ‘’The birds eat omega-3 as part of their diet and are otherwise left to thrive as normal. The chickens are not treated any differently other than eating feed enriched with omega-3.’’
Omegas-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids which, as a key part of a balanced diet, help to maintain normal heart, brain and vision function. Research shows that people with the highest levels of omega-3 had a 40% reduction in cardiovascular related deaths compared to people with the lowest levels. Optimum health benefits are obtained from a daily intake of 250mg of omega-3 fatty acids as part of a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle, according to Waitrose, an upmarket supermarket chain in the UK. Waitrose currently sells omega-3 chicken in a number of different products, including breast fillets, thighs, drums, wings and liver.
Heather Jenkins, Waitrose’s agricultural director, says: “Our research is showing that this nutritional breakthrough has the potential to have a significant impact on health. What’s exciting is that it’s improving the nutritional content of something which customers already consume frequently as part of their diets.” Dr Joanne Lunn, Waitrose nutritionist, adds: “This chicken will make a really useful contribution to our customers' omega-3 intake, as we know it can be hard to consume enough omega-3 from other sources, especially if you are not a fan of fish.”
Moy Park is the first processor in the UK to develop omega-3 chicken. This innovation is the result of a 10-year project working in partnership with animal nutrition specialists Devenish. "Innovation is a focus across the business at Moy Park with R&D and insight driving the launch of many successful new products.
For example, Moy Park was first to market with a roast-in-the-bag chicken product that uses cutting edge thermoformed packaging technology. Our new product development team work closely with our customers, delivering bespoke ideas to excite the consumer. As well as innovative product development, Moy Park’s focus on food safety and innovation has positioned us as industry leaders in this area and we continue to invest time and resources in innovative R&D across the company,’’ the spokesman explains.