.. and not just any job, it’s one of the most important jobs in the chicken meat industry. Meat chickens are fed diets formulated specifically to meet their needs at different stages throughout their life, and it’s the job of the poultry nutritionist to make sure chickens get precisely what they need. As you can imagine, working out what goes into the feed for millions of chickens is a full-time job that requires years of training. We interviewed the poultry nutritionist at Inghams, Dr Kath Balding, to get her thoughts on her job and the importance of what goes into the feed to grow the chickens we eat.
What’s the role of the poultry nutritionist?
Essentially the role of the poultry nutritionist is to optimise feed specifications for meat chickens at minimum cost to produce chicken meat. This has two parts – establishing ideal nutrient specifications and then formulating the best combination of available ingredients – which is constantly changing in nutrient value and price – to achieve these specifications.
What’s in chicken feed in Australia?
The base diet composition of chicken feed in Australia is a grain (predominantly wheat) and soymeal blend. Wheat can be often substituted with sorghum and barley while oats, lupins, field peas and faba beans are also commonly used. Where available local protein meals (cotton seed meal and canola meal) are used instead of soymeal. The diets also include supplemented vitamins, minerals, amino acids and to improve the nutritive value of the feed – kind of like multivitamins for chickens.
Are there regulations around what’s allowed in chicken feed?
There is significant regulation ensuring that chicken feed is safe for the chickens but also to ensure that what we feed chickens keeps the chicken meat safe for people to eat. Some requirements are compulsory, such as those enforced by the Government’s Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority, which regulates all products with specific nutrient claims. Then there are some voluntary guidelines such as those produced by the Stock Feed Manufacturers Association or the Feed Ingredients and Additives Association. The Government’s National Residue Survey also makes sure that any potential contaminants aren’t present or are below acceptable levels.
How is chicken feed made?
Chicken feed is produced in feed mills. The process starts with grinding the grains and combining them in a large mixer. Once the ingredients are properly mixed, they are subjected to hear and pressure and forced through a die (a specialised tool used to shape ingredients into pellets using a press) to make pellets (see below). Possible liquid additions like enzymes and oils can be sprayed onto the pellets post pelleting.
Is it an interesting job?
Every day as a poultry nutritionist is different. Working with live birds, with milling and farming, with new ingredients, variations in ingredients from year to year, new technologies, consumer expectations and best practice research means that everything is constantly changing and always an interesting challenge.
So, there you have it! Not only are chickens fed a diet specifically made for them to match their precise nutritional requirements throughout life, it’s made and managed by qualified nutritionists to make sure the chicken’s growth is optimised and that they are kept healthy.