[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is an urgent need in industrialized societies to develop novel products that can lower human dietary cholesterol intake. Dehydrated alfalfa is a good source of hypocholesterolemic compounds such as saponins. Whether consumption of alfalfa by chickens would decrease the cholesterol content of broiler meat remains, however, to be established. We determined meat quality characteristics, lipid and cholesterol contents, and consumer preference of broiler meat derived from production systems based on restricted feeding of a commercial diet combined with provision of free-choice dehydrated alfalfa. Results demonstrated that it was possible to produce chicken breast meat with reduced cholesterol content. In addition, total lipids in chicken meat were significantly decreased when a higher level of restriction was applied. Members of a 50-person consumer panel preferred meat from animals not consuming or consuming moderate levels of alfalfa. Those members that preferred meat from animals consuming the higher percentage of alfalfa identified taste as the primary attribute influencing that decision. Together the results suggest that it is possible to develop novel broiler production systems that will produce leaner meat that is acceptable to consumers and has a reduced cholesterol content.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: SUMMARY The use of alfalfa in diets for monogastric animals is limited by its high fiber content. However, it is well established that alfalfa is a natural source of xanthophylls, giving the poultry carcasses a desirable yellow color. We have investigated the potential use of cellulases and xylanases for enhancing the nutritive value of alfalfa for broiler chicks. In the first experiment, a commercial enzyme mixture and 2 recombinant cellulases and xylanases did not improve daily weight gains and feed efficiency of broilers between 35 and 56 d old, although animal performance was significantly depressed in animals supplemented with a recombinant xylanase. In a second experiment, alfalfa consumption was stimulated by restricting the consumption of the high energy feed to 50 and 75% from d 7 to 56. Alfalfa was offered separately and ad libitum and was supplemented or not with a commercial enzyme cocktail of polysaccharidases. While restriction of high energy feed had a drastic impact on the performance of broiler chicks, no improvements in weight gain and feed efficiency were observed due to enzyme supplementation. However, alfalfa consumption was lower in enzyme-supplemented animals, leading to smaller, but not significant, feed conversion ratios (FCR). Accumulated consumption of alfalfa meal ranged, in average, from 965 to 2,664 g/bird in experiments 1 and 2, respectively. The carcasses from birds with higher alfalfa intakes were more deeply pigmented with an increase in yellowness (b*) of the broiler skin.