chicken feed

What Chickens Eat

What chickens are fed has a direct impact on both the flavour and nutrition of the meat, so it’s important that all chickens are fed the right stuff. For this reason, what chickens eat is the single most important aspect of raising them.

The make-up and amount of feed given to chicken is very important to their growth cycle. In fact, it’s a science. Farmers are very careful about what they feed their flocks at different times of their growth cycle. For example, a feed that is too energy-rich can cause the birds grow too fast, which lead to growing problems.

What’s in Chicken Feed?

Chicken feeds are mostly prepared in specialized feed mills. They come under the jurisdiction of the Canada Feeds Act and are subject to government inspections. There is no advantage to the miller or to the farmer not to produce or use a quality feed. Before it is put on the market, chicken meat is checked for quality, absence of disease and antibacterial residues.

The main ingredient of all chicken feed (over 88%) is grains and grain by-products, protein-producing seeds, and meal made from them such as canola or soybean meal. So, in essence, all chicken is “grain fed.” In much smaller quantities (around 10%), various other protein sources such as meat and bone meal/vegetable fats, are added to improve the nutritional content, taste and texture of the feed. In much, much smaller quantities (1.5%), mineral and vitamin supplements are commonly added to prevent any nutrient deficiencies.

Chicken feed may also contain minute levels (less than 1 per cent) of additives such as enzymes and antibiotics to prevent disease and digestive problems. All of these additives are subject to strict regulations and are used in conjunction with good management, vaccination and hygiene practices. In Canada, the use of hormones and steroids in the poultry industry has been banned since the 1960s.

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