Now there’s another reason to have chicken tonight

More of us are proactively using food and nutrition to improve our health and wellbeing, a strategy that is also being promoted by the government and the NHS to reduce the burden on health services. It’s a line of thought that goes right back to Greek physician Hippocrates, who said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Devenish and Moy Park have developed a sustainable, natural and healthy way to introduce long-chain omega-3 into chicken meat through animal feed

Interest in nutritionally enhanced foods is increasing. A 2015 report by researchers at Nielsen, We are what we eat: Healthy eating trends around the world, found that increasing numbers of consumers are choosing foods that can help reduce risk of disease and/or promote good health. For around a third, this includes foods high in protein or which have been fortified with calcium, vitamins or minerals.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are among the important nutritional substances for maintaining good all-round health. Yet, according to the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey data released by Public Health England, average consumption of oily fish is well below the recommended one portion (140g) a week in all age groups.

This isn’t surprising. Until now oily fish has been the only significant dietary source of the type of omega-3 which can have a positive impact on the health of your heart, brain and vision (long-chain omega-3 fatty acids). But not everyone likes, can eat or has access to fish. Omega-3 fatty acids derived from plants such as flax and hemp are not the same as those derived from oily fish and do not offer the same health benefits.

The food innovation team at Devenish and the agricultural team at Moy Park have worked together to come up with a new solution, developing a sustainable, natural and healthy way to introduce long-chain omega-3 into chicken meat through animal feed. This contains algae which is naturally rich in long-chain omega-3, with no impact on the appearance or taste of the meat.

The first output of this pioneering work – omega-3 enriched chicken – went on sale at Waitrose last month. The chickens are reared by Moy Park on family farms in Northern Ireland to Waitrose’s high welfare standards. Waitrose is stocking ten new products, including whole chickens, breast fillets and thigh meat.

Taking nutrition back along the food chain is an obvious way to improve a nation’s health. In time, shoppers can expect to see omega-3-enhanced pork, beef and milk in supermarket coolers as Devenish extends its food innovation partnerships.

It is a way of making popular protein even healthier and of offering consumers new ways to consume the essential fatty acids which, in the right quantities (40 mg per 100 calories), can make a significant contribution to healthy heart and brain function as well as vision.

Initial testing, on 30 healthy participants, after one, three and five weeks of eating three servings per week of the enriched chicken, showed an average increase of 12 per cent in their blood plasma levels of omega-3.

In developing ways to add nutrition back into wholesome real foods, Devenish is helping to strengthen the focus on natural goodness.

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