Raising Omega-3-Rich Chicken and Eggs with Pasture and Proper Feed

These three rules for managing pastured poultry will help you provide healthful, omega-3-maximized eggs and meat for your family and your customers.

  • Omega-3 Chicken
    In a mixed-access system, a chick might find a protein-rich caterpillar, while a hen can graze a garden plot for bugs and fresh greens. A diverse mix of forage, insects, worms and grains will guarantee high-quality, omega-3-rich egg and meat products.
    Photo by Leon Werdinger
  • Nothing beats a batch of farm fresh eggs.
    Photo by FOOD-micro/Fotolia
  • Combattant du nord hens drinking in northern France.
    Photo by Stuart Sutton
  • This Baby Rhode Island Red gets a healthy dose of protein and omega-3s from eating a caterpillar.
    Photo by Leslie Banks/Fotolia
  • This chicken forages in a Washington garden for fresh bugs and greens.
    Photo by Janet Horton
  • Put your flock to work turning the compost pile, especially when it has higher concentrations of green material or nutritious insects.
    Photo by Janet Horton

  • Omega-3 Chicken

In response to news that Omgea-6s and Omega-3s are out of balance in the standard Western diet, health-minded consumers now purchase pasture-raised poultry meat and eggs. However, as demand increases, many consumers are priced out of healthful food markets. Thankfully, small-scale poultry providers — oftentimes called “flocksters” — offer us a workable model to produce omega-3-maximized chicken, eggs, and other poultry products on a modest budget.

To maximize omega-3s, budding backyard flocksters should incorporate feed amendments and free-range practices. Additionally, you should source or grow high-quality, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic grains and greens to include in an intentional feed regimen.

Admittedly, intensively managed sustainable poultry operations can be complicated, but with these three general rules, you’ll fulfill your flock’s forage and feed needs, and produce high-omega-3 meat and eggs for the dinner table.

Rule 1: Put Poultry on Pasture

Many studies report an immediate omega-3 boost in eggs and meat when poultry are pastured because, in general, weeds are higher in omega-3s than seeds.

Mike Badger, the executive director and publisher of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA), says that in addition to higher concentrations of vitamins E and D, the “absolutely flooring result” of his organization’s 2013 study was that, compared with the USDA omega-6 to omega-3 reference ratio of 15-to-1, the meat from pastured birds fed industry-standard rations had, on average, an 8-to-1 fatty-acid ratio. Meat from birds fed no-soy rations was even better: 3-to-1. (See APPPA’s full results.)

Grazing experts generally agree that green and leafy forages maximize omega-3s, so choose clovers, alfalfa, and purslane, which are also much higher in protein, calcium, and carotene than grasses. Given that the pasture in the APPPA study included orchard grass and crabgrass, in addition to clover, omega-oriented flocksters should be able to balance the ratio even further with high-omega forage blends.

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