Poultry World – Algae

How algae is helping fill the Omega-3 supply gap and delivering health benefits to the egg consumer

The majority of health organisations across the world recommend a minimum daily intake of 200mg of Omega-3 in our diets for healthy adults, but with a growing population of over seven billion people, demand is at an all-time high, and innovative and sustainable solutions are required to fill this void.

Long chain Omega-3s are types of fatty acids our bodies need in order to function and have many health benefits for the heart, brain and immune system. Omega-3s in layer poultry diets not only bring significant health advantages to the hens, but can also transfer these benefits to the consumer via their eggs.

A traditional source for Omega-3 is fish oil, but with global annual production limited to 1mMTpa, a deficit exists, and a new source was required to bridge this gap.

UK manufacturer of energy, protein and Omega-3 supplements, UFAC-UK has developed a sustainable, environmentally friendly, vegetable source of Omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), using algae rather than fish oils.

“algi18dha is a traceable, sustainable, high-quality alternative to fish-oil sourced Omega-3s,” explains UFAC-UK national sales manager, Nigel Bateson. “It is a free-flowing meal of algae oil from native Schizochytrium species. It contains a minimum of 18% Omega-3 DHA in the biomass, and is easy to incorporate in feeds.”

Crucially, this DHA translates directly from the hens to their eggs, bringing benefits to the consumer.

“DHA brings many benefits, including blood pressure and heart rate reduction, and aids vascular health. It also raises good cholesterol and improves cognitive health, and we are keen to develop ways of passing these benefits through the food chain to the consumer,” adds Mr Bateson.

Working with progressive suppliers and innovative egg producers and farmers, UFAC-UK has been able to transfer these nutritional benefits through to the end consumer within the UK.

A notable early adopter of this sustainable source of Omega-3 is UK-based St Ewe Eggs, based in Cornwall. Packing 1 million eggs per week in total, St Ewe Eggs wanted to push the boundaries and develop a super nutritious everyday egg, specifically for the health and wellness market.

Working with poultry specialists, Humphrey Feeds & Pullets, St Ewe Eggs had identified the traceability and nutritional benefits of algae, providing high levels of DHA. Owner Rebecca Tonks worked with Humphrey Feeds & Pullets to develop a scientifically based feed, using algae sourced Omega-3 in combination with Selenium, a naturally occurring mineral and one of 13 essential minerals needed to maintain health and boost immune support.

“Selenium and fatty acids are two beneficial ingredients in human diets, so it seemed obvious to put them together,” says Rebecca. “The growth rate of algae is phenomenal, so it’s a sustainable source of DHA Omega-3. The health benefits for humans are huge; consuming the omega-3 in egg form, as opposed to tablet or supplement form, means more can be gained because the human body can break it down and store it in human tissue.”

Working with its own nutritionists and the Humphrey’s team, St Ewe created different feed blends on site, trialling different levels of Selenium and algae until they got the formulation right. It was Humphrey Feeds & Pullets that had put Rebecca in touch with UFAC-UK, who were able to supply the algae via the algi18dha product.

Martin Humphrey, sales director at Humphrey Feeds & Pullets explains, “It is always a challenging yet positive experience to work with Rebecca from St Ewe Eggs, as she is determined to create an egg brand positively differentiated by enhancements to her eggs.

“We worked closely with UFAC-UK, and their team has been particularly helpful in creating a specific premix which meets the nutritional objectives of St Ewe’s Super Eggs.”

Now confident with their feed formulation following these trials, Rebecca is keen to further develop the new ‘Super Eggs’ range. So far, of the 189,000 laying hens, 29,000 are on the Super Egg diet, producing approximately 152,000 Super Eggs® per week, out of the 1 million eggs packed weekly.

Although still in its infancy, the Super Egg brand is gaining traction with the focus very much on the immune and antioxidant support benefits, and also links to improving heart health through DHA Omega-3.

The Super Eggs® are sent off for nutritional testing every 12 weeks to ensure St Ewe’s claims are correct, in that a serving of two Super Eggs® provides the consumer with 75% reference intake (RI) of Selenium and 65% of DHA omega 3.

This testing also helps manage feeding in different seasons, ensuring the eggs still contain the required nutrients throughout summer and winter. St Ewe Eggs will work with Humphreys and UFAC-UK to develop the range and adapt formulations as required.

At present, St Ewe is supplying 100 Tesco supermarket outlets across the UK, as well as to smaller retailers locally in Cornwall and via a UK food company supplying to farm shops across the country.

Although costing more to produce, margins are similar to other eggs, if not slightly more, as they sell for more by promoting the health benefits. However, St Ewe want to help improve the public’s health, and want to make Super Eggs® accessible and affordable for all.

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