The impact of Spirulina on broiler meat quality

31-05 | |
Supplementation of Spirulina in broiler diets improves meat quality and nutritional value. Photo: Canva
Supplementation of Spirulina in broiler diets improves meat quality and nutritional value. Photo: Canva

In recent years, Spirulina, a microalga rich in proteins, vitamins and antioxidants, has been studied extensively. It appears that this additive has the potential to improve broiler meat quality.

The impact on meat quality characteristics

Including Spirulina in broilers’ diets enhances meat colour through its natural pigments, especially carotenoids; however, excessive supplementation does not make a difference in colour traits. Spirulina supplementation increases sensory qualities such as flavour and, unlike the colour traits, the higher Spirulina intake levels continuously change sensory attributes with no saturation point.

The impact on meat nutritional attributes

It has been shown that dietary supplementation of Spirulina at a 2% feed level increases the protein content of broiler meat. However, Spirulina inclusion at 0.5% and 1% feed levels has no impact on the protein and fat contents of meat. It appears that the impact of Spirulina on protein and fat levels depends on factors such as the specific strain of Spirulina, the bird’s age, the overall diet composition and the bioaccessibility and digestibility of Spirulina.

The bioaccessibility of Spirulina nutrients can be enhanced using mechanical or enzymatic pre-treatments that disrupt microalgal cell walls and release nutritional compounds.

Furthermore, Spirulina is comprised of well-balanced amino acids; therefore, supplementation of 0.1% Spirulina in broiler diets increases the levels of lysine, methionine, tryptophan, histidine and aspartic acid in the breast muscle.

Further, Spirulina intake enhances the nutritional quality of broiler meat through modifications in fatty acid composition.

The impact on meat health-related compounds

Dietary supplementation of Spirulina decreases the thiobarbituric acid reactive substance value, an indicator of oxidative stress, indicating better oxidative stability. Excessive Spirulina intake might not effectively reduce oxidation due to an imbalance in antioxidant mechanisms at higher intake levels. In addition, higher Spirulina intake increases the level of antioxidant carotenoid in the meat, thus improving the nutritional value and oxidative stability.

Safety precautions

Spirulina is considered a safe feed additive which is free of major contaminants. Mercury, aluminium, cadmium, and arsenic found in Spirulina are below the maximum allowed intake levels. In addition, pure and well processed Spirulina is devoid of heavy metals or harmful micro-organisms that can pose significant health risks. Therefore, proper cultivation and production conditions ensure the high quality of Spirulina, thus preventing broiler meat contamination.

The impact on consumer acceptability of broiler meat

Moderate inclusion of Spirulina improves meat colour due to the increased carotenoid content; however, higher levels of Spirulina alter flavour or texture in a way that might not be universally preferred. Furthermore, the perception of Spirulina as a natural feed additive can positively affect consumer preferences, especially in markets favouring natural foods. Therefore, it is required to provide sufficient information regarding the nutritional composition of Spirulina and to increase sustainable microalga production. In addition, providing clear and informative labelling for consumers would allow for an evaluation of their willingness to pay a higher price for premium food.

This article is based on the publication: Spínola MP, Costa MM, Prates JAM. Effect of Cumulative Spirulina Intake on Broiler Meat Quality, Nutritional and Health-Related Attributes. Foods. 2024 Mar 5;13(5):799.

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Azarpajouh
Samaneh Azarpajouh Author, veterinarian
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