Waitrose will this week introduce the UK’s first chicken that is a source of omega 3, the polyunsaturated fatty acid which is claimed help to maintain normal heart, brain and vision function.
Despite leading authorities recommending regular consumption of foods containing omega 3, such as oily fish, research suggests that only 23% of the UK’s adult population consumes the recommended intake, with levels of consumption particularly low in children and young people.
The new omega 3 chicken is produced for Waitrose by Moy Park on farms in Northern Ireland. The chicken is enriched by feeding the birds on a diet containing an algae – the family of aquatic plants that includes kelp and seaweed – naturally rich in omega 3. The taste and appearance of the chicken is said to be the same as birds reared on a conventional diet.
Waitrose worked with Moy Park and animal nutrition specialist Devenish Nutrition to develop the product which has taken 10 years of development. The project came about as a result of concerns within the medical community that consumers were not including enough sources of omega 3 in their diets, particularly children, who often don’t like oily fish. With Chicken being Waitrose’s top selling protein, the idea was conceived of developing a more popular protein containing a source of omega 3.
Heather Jenkins, Waitrose’s Agricultural Director, said: “Our research is showing that this nutritional breakthrough has the potential to have a significant impact on health. What’s exciting is that it’s improving the nutritional content of something which customers already consume frequently as part of their diets.”
Professor Patrick Wall, Professor of Public Health, University College Dublin, added: “This is actually going to revolutionise nutrition. The idea that you can make an everyday product healthier suggests you could have a huge impact on health.”
The retailer said that initial trials showed that people eating enriched chicken for just five weeks increased their levels of Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and saw measurable effects on their cardiovascular health.
A total of 10 different new products, including whole chickens, breast fillets and thigh meat will go on sale at Waitrose from 15 June, priced from £3.59 per kilo.