Mushrooms: The next best thing for chickens?

02-08-2017 | |
Photo: Wikimedia
Photo: Wikimedia

Can edible mushrooms serve as a feed additive for poultry? A group of researchers in Poland tested a range of mushrooms, known for health promoting effects.

Herbs, aluminosilicates, organic acids, prebiotics or probiotics have all become very popular in recent years. Slightly less attention has been devoted in European research on the efficacy of mushrooms as feed additives in food-producing animals’ nutrition. Although the health-promoting properties of mushrooms have been valued for thousands of years in Asia, in Europe they were considered for a long time as a food of little value. Just to name a few, edible mushrooms have antioxidant, immunostimulatory, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and hypocholesterolemic properties.

Better gut health in broilers

The researchers therefore delved into the current state of knowledge concerning the use of edible mushrooms as a feed additive for boilers and layers and published their findings in the Journal of Animal Feed Science and Technology. Several efficacy-trials in broiler chickens have been done in the past, although findings are variable. Nevertheless, many of them clearly indicate that mushrooms may have a positive impact in broiler chicken production as they increase growth performance, improve microbiota status in the gut, modulate immune response, exert tissue antioxidant activity, influence intestinal morphology and improve lipid profile. Undoubtedly, the mushroom effects can be influenced by different species of mushroom, origin, processing procedure and physico-chemical composition, as well as level of supplementation.

Efficacy of mushroom additives, results from various trials (mouse over the magnifying glass icons below).

Effect on egg quality

In the layer hen trials, it was shown that many of the findings indicate that the addition of mushrooms, which are rich in a variety of secondary metabolites, can raise the antioxidant status of the organism, positively influence laying performance, egg quality, fatty acid composition and cholesterol level in yolk lipids, suppress pathogenic bacteria and even faecal NH3 emission. A trial from 2008 investigated that the supplementation of the diet with L. edodes mycelium extract did not improve laying performance but lowered Salmonella spp population in naturally infected birds.

Further fine-tuning needed

Based on the results of studies presented in this article, it can be concluded that many mushroom species e.g. Lentinula edodes, Agaricus bisporus, Agaricus blazei, Hericium caput-medusae, Pleurotus ostreatus, Pleurotus eryngii, Fomitella fraxinea, Flammulina velutipes, Ganoderma lucidum, Cordyceps inensis and Cordyceps militaris can be the source of active substances that might positively affect poultry performance and health status. Although results of some studies show positive effects of mushroom additives, further experiments are required to determinate the most effective doses, species and components responsible for mentioned activities.

Source: ScienceDirect

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Emmy Koeleman Freelance editor