Current EU regulations allow 5% of feed for organic poultry to come from non-organic production. This is due to concerns about a 100% organic diet meeting the requirements for specific amino acids such as methionine. This exception is due to end on 31st December 2017.
While this may match consumer expectations, protein sourced from global organic production may have a negative impact on perceptions of organic poultry in other ways. Soybean is a commonly used ingredient in poultry feed but soybean production has negative environmental and social impacts. Consumers may also prefer organic poultry to have been fed on locally produced feed and, indeed, this would be in line with organic principles.
Preliminary feasibility feed trials were carried out during a summer and a winter season using organic broilers in the UK to test three 100% organic feeds: a control diet with globally sourced ingredients including soybean expeller, a diet based on locally sourced (i.e. within Europe) organic ingredients, and a diet based on locally sourced organic ingredients and algae (a good source of methionine). The results of the summer feed trial showed that there were no significant differences in broiler weight gains. In the winter feed trial differences were found.
There was a significant difference (P = 0.034) in weight gain between the local feed (lower weight gain) and the local feed with algae but no significant difference between the control diet with soybean and the two local diets. These preliminary feed trials indicate that there is no significant impact on broiler performance or animal welfare parameters when replacing soybean with European protein sources, possibly including algae, suggesting that, although the research is still at a very early stage, such feeds may be a viable option for 100% organic poultry feed in the future.