OSU fortifies dairy, poultry foods by changing animals' diets

field of flaxseed
High in healthy omega-3s, flaxseed can be used as feed to make poultry and dairy products more nutritious. (Photo by Bob Rost.)

Animals that eat flaxseed and camelina meal produce milk, poultry with more omega-3s

OSU has added flaxseed to chicken and cow feed to make poultry meat and dairy products more wholesome. As a result, the products contain lower levels of unhealthy saturated fats and increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve heart health.

Researchers found that when cows were fed six pounds of flaxseed per day, saturated fatty acids in whole milk fat dropped 18 percent, poly-unsaturated fatty acids increased 82 percent, and omega-3 levels rose 70 percent compared to feeding no flaxseed. OSU has also shown that feeding chickens camelina meal, an edible byproduct from the biofuels industry, can increase omega-3s in their meat, too.

That's good news for producers because products enriched with omega-3 can fetch premium prices. Oregon farmers sold $578 million in dairy products and $68 million in broilers in 2012. Farmers could see sales for flaxseed climb if it's used as animal feed. OSU has shown that flax can be grown as a rotation crop in Oregon, with yields of 15 to 20 bushels of seed per acre.

Sources: Gerd Bobe, an animal and human nutritionist at OSU; Gita Cherian, a poultry nutrition specialst at OSU; Oregon Department of Agriculture 2012-2013 Agriculture and Fisheries Statistics 

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