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New litter materials and more diverse protein sources improve the sustainability of poultry production in Finland and globally

One of the aims of Natural Resources Institute Finland’s (Luke) research is to support domestic poultry production and to improve its sustainability, in terms of its economy, productivity, environmental impacts, and animal welfare. Recently, the sustainability of poultry meat production in Finland and globally has been studied at Luke. 

More sustainable production with environmentally friendly litter materials 

In Finland, peat has traditionally been used as a bedding material for broilers. Due to the negative environmental impacts of peat extraction, the need to find more environmentally friendly litter materials is urgent. Litter is important not only for water retention, but also for the animal’s ability to behave naturally. In addition, it modifies the microbial population of the animal’s digestive tract. The properties of litter materials are related to production response, carcass quality, animal health and behavior. 

Preliminary research results have found promising alternatives to peat as a litter material. Among other things, curly-leaf pondweed has proven to have as good litter properties as peat. The research will enable more sustainable broiler meat production by providing information on environmentally friendly litter materials to both the broiler and litter industries. 

Diversifying protein sources towards more sustainable poultry production

Increased demand has led to significantly increased broiler meat production in Finland. In the feeding of broilers, the transition from imported soy to new sources of protein is one of the preconditions for sustainable production. Alternative protein sources include EU-approved hydrolysed animal proteins, insects, and domestic plant-derived protein sources, such as legumes and grass protein. 

The research results show that the soy used in broiler feed can be partially replaced by legumes grown in Finland, such as faba beans or peas, as well as rapeseed or insect protein, without affecting the growth and health of the broilers. The results of the amino acid digestibility tests carried out in the project can be used to refine the composition of broiler feed and thereby reduce nutrient excretion, in turn improving its environmental sustainability and economic performance. 

The digestibility and nutritional values ​​of the nutrients and amino acids in feed components are a key aspect of the overall sustainability of production, as well as the growth and welfare of the animal. Luke’s animal nutrition research provides information on alternative protein sources for both the broiler and feed industries and their utilisation. The research results also encourage the cultivation of legumes and development of new legume varieties. Life cycle analyses, as well as quality analyses of the structure and nutritional quality of meat are also an important part of poultry research at Luke. 

Luke enables value addition in the poultry production chain

Luke’s poultry research enables more efficient and sustainable utilisation of natural resources, reduction of feed costs, and lower excretion of nutrients into the soil and water resources. The results will also help to improve the self-sufficiency of broiler production in Finland, and reduce the unnecessary use of proteins that are suitable for direct human consumption in poultry production. 

“It has been tremendous to provide our clients with solutions that can increase the profitability of their businesses, and to know that such solutions can help increase the sustainability and self-sufficiency of poultry meat production”, says Gabriel Da Silva Viana, a specialist researcher at Luke. 

Soybeans can be partially replaced by legumes grown in Finland, such as beans and peas.