Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Lemon and thyme diet boosts chicken growth rates

Farm leaders have called for a halt to the talks
Farm leaders have called for a halt to the talks

Feeding chickens on a special diet with lemon and thyme boosts growth rates and creates a more succulent breast, according to Scots researchers.

Scientists at the Ayrshire-based avian research centre at Scotland’s Rural College – SRUC – say the special herbal mix, which incorporates some of the classic ingredients used to make a roast chicken Sunday lunch, could be a real game-changer for the poultry industry.

The sector is currently seeking new ways to raise bigger and meatier chickens following a European ban on the use of growth-promoting antibiotics.

The chicken meat market is growing with more than 800million birds hatched and killed for the UK market every year, and according to SRUC poultry now accounts for half of the country’s meat sales.

During the study, researchers compared a typical feed used by poultry companies with one supplemented with a herbal mix.

The herbal mix contained lemon, thyme, basil, caraway, laurel, oregano, sage and tea.

Both feeds were then fed to nearly 1,000 chickens over the normal 42-day production cycle.

SRUC said although the herbal mix did not affect the flavour of the meat, the chickens fed the supplement were 6.6% heaver and produced up to 10% more breast than those fed on a normal diet.

Researchers believe this is due to an increase in the amount of digestive enzymes in the chickens’ gut, which helps the birds take in more nutrients and leads to greater weight gain.

“One of the key benefits we found with the herbal mix was a much improved ratio of feed to weight gain,” said SRUC researcher Farina Khattak.

“With the herbal supplement the birds could eat the same amount of food yet gain more weight, which could mean increased profits for producers.”

She said previous research also showed that some herbs can offer a “promising alternative” to antibiotics.

“This combination appears to be better for bird welfare, promote healthy growth and produce more of the breast meat that consumers want.  It really does tick all the boxes,” added Dr Khattak.

Aberdeenshire chicken farm and chairman of NFU Scotland’s poultry committee Robert Hay said:  “This looks very encouraging.  If this increase in performance is transferred to the farm without too much cost it can only be good for our industry.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in