Cranberries seen to boost immunity in chickens

Researchers are looking at cranberry extract as an alternative to antimicrobial drugs used by poultry producers.  |  File photo

DRESDEN, Ont. — Most people know cranberries go with Christmas dinner. Now, an Agriculture Canada researcher has found that the tart fruit boosts immunity when fed to young birds.

Mortality was decreased 50 percent when Moussa S. Diarra and his research team fed small amounts of cranberry extract to broiler chickens during their first 10 days of life.

“This idea came to me when I participated in my first Christmas dinner in Canada,” Diarra said.

“Now cranberries are one of my favourite fruits.”

The research is supported through the Organic Science Cluster at Dalhousie University, but Diarra feels the findings may have applications beyond the organic industry. There’s growing concern about the development of bacterial resistance to antimicrobial drugs used by poultry farmers.

Diarra feels the research also has potential benefits for cranberry growers and processors and poultry farmers.

The extract can be obtained from the pulp of pressed cranberries, which was previously viewed as waste.

He’s also looking at potential improvement to meat quality because the antioxidants in cranberries could increase storage time.

The birds appear to like cranberries in their diet, he said. Feed intake was not affected, and the birds that were fed the extract gained weight a little faster, al-though the difference was not statistically significant.

Diarra is now looking at potential benefits of other fruit extracts for the poultry industry.

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