Reduced Environmental Impact from Meat Poultry Production Through Improved Nutrition
Three specific projects have addressed resource utilisation and pollution related to poultry production: the silicon project, the bioethanol project and the phosphorous project.
A novel form of silicon, developed by the Poultry Research Unit (PRU) at NTU, has been taken into the product portfolio of a FTSE100 company, as a feed supplement to reduce poultry lameness.
In conjunction with the company, PRU also produced evidence-based research resulting in a patent for recovering yeast from bioethanol production. Industry is now using this process to produce high-quality protein for poultry feed alongside bioethanol production to reduce the carbon footprint of both bioethanol and poultry meat production.
Research by PRU resulted in the successful development of an efficacious supplement. Impact is evidenced by the formation of the spin out company, Si Active, in 2009, which holds the patent to the bioavailable silica.
Over recent years, the physical development of the Poultry Research Unit has increased the UK's poultry research capacity. Since it was constructed in 2009, the unit has been used as a contract research facility by both SMEs and multi-national companies working in the poultry mineral supplements sector.
The bioethanol project used Dr Emily Burton's expertise in developing and evaluating novel feed materials to optimize a co-product from bioethanol production for use in poultry diets. The research has changed the manufacturing process used by industry resulting in the construction of a manufacturing plant. The addition of the patented yeast separation technology to a newly-built bioethanol plant will lead to an estimated 40% reduction in energy usage. The yeast protein produced reduces reliance on imported soya. This means it has an environmental impact on poultry production as it reduces the global proportion of land required for soya bean growth – which often requires the destruction of tropical rain forest.
Worldwide, bioethanol production will soon reach 100 billion litres, giving the technology enormous significance worldwide.
The phosphorus project evolved in response to the poultry industry's need for more accurate knowledge of how well minerals supplied in poultry feed were meeting the requirements of the birds. An undersupply results in reduced skeletal integrity and oversupply results in environmental pollution via poultry manure.
PRU is recognised for its expertise in poultry bone mineralisation and has initiated a bone mineralisation investigation service available to the UK and EU poultry sector, which has been implemented on a per sample basis for use by commercial companies to determine the mineral content of relevant leg bones at differing stages of bird development.
The evidence presented by Dr Burton highlighting key factors affecting phytase enzyme efficacy has resulted in changed industry practice in how a nutritional value for phosphorus is ascribed to a feed material.