In the commercial production of apple juice and cider, a large amount of fibrous waste – known as pomace – is produced as a by-product. And while the substance is currently just thrown away, new research shows that it can be used to improve the health of chickens.
According to scientists at Cornell University, about 175,350 tons (193,290 tons) of poma apples were produced in the 2021-2022 growing season, in the US alone.
Due to the high sugar and acid content of the material, together with the way it is fermented, it will disturb the carbon-nitrogen ratio of the soil if it is composted and used as a fertilizer on a large scale. As a result, most apple pomace are simply thrown away in landfills.
Previous studies have suggested that the phytochemicals and prebiotics naturally found in apples may improve gut health and the gut microbiome (the community of beneficial microbes that live in the gut). A good gut microbiome has been linked to many health benefits, such as resistance to autoimmune diseases and bacterial infections.
With this fact in mind, the Cornell team led by Prof. Prof. Elad Tako and doctoral student Cydney Jackson set out to see if an apple-pomace-enhanced feed might improve the health of broilers, which is a well-established model for evaluating the effects of plant-based compounds on gut health.
For the study, scientists injected apple pomace extract into the amniotic fluid that forms the embryos inside chicken eggs. Tako tells us that doing so is a reliable way to “demonstrate the potential beneficial nutritional effects of certain nutritional ingredients.”
When the eggs hatched and the chicks were analyzed, it was found that compared to the control group, the pomace extract improved the animal’s transport system for amino acids, increased the bioavailability of iron, increased the microbial population in the large intestine, and supported the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. A planned long-term feeding trial is expected to support these findings.
“Pomace is considered as industrial waste now. If we can potentially use pomace, which is rich in nutrients, we can add it to the broiler diet,” said Tako. “We can improve the nutrition in their food and achieve productivity in a more natural way – and potentially reduce the use of additional dietary chemicals.”
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nutrients.
Source: Cornell University