Brown algae to broiler chickens

Last changed: 26 April 2021
Close-up of Emma Ivarsson holding a long brown alga in her left hand. Photo.

With an increasing world population and food consumption, poultry is predicted to be the most common meat source globally in 2020. However, to be able to meet the increasing demand in a sustainable way all parts of poultry meat production needs to be optimized. A way to accomplish this could be by the use of feed additives with bioactive substances. A bioactive substance promotes health and gives additional value to the diet. Brown algae has a higher content of bioactive substances than many other algae and plants and are therefore of interest to evaluate as feed additive to broiler chickens.

The bioactive substances in brown algae most widely studied are the fibres laminarin, fucoidan and alginate. Because algae have developed in a different way than plants on land, it is believed that they have other effects than plant fibre when they are used as a feed additive. Previous studies using algae or algal products as feed additive in diets to mainly pigs have shown prebiotic, immune stimulating and antibacterial properties, which makes it interesting to evaluate also in diets to broiler chickens. However, as for most feed additives the mechanisms behind the observed beneficial effects are largely unknown.

Within the project AquaAgriKelp the conditions for a large-scale sustainable cultivation of the brown algae Saccharina latissima at the Swedish west coast are evaluated. An important overall aim of the AquaAgri Kelp project is to use the full potential of algae as biomass in a future bio based society. The aim of this project is to evaluate these algae as a feed additive in broiler chicken production with focus on the effects of their bioactive substances.

The project starts with analyses and characterization of the bioactive substances in algae harvested at different time points and extraction of algal products to get higher concentrations of the bioactive substances. The project will then continue with an in vitro study where the fermentation of algae and the effects on gut microbiota are evaluated. The most promising algal product will be selected and used in future feeding experiments. We will study the possibility to improve transfer of antibodies and important nutrients from the hen to the egg, the ability of the algae to stimulate development of the digestive tract and immune response in young chickens as well as the ability to decrease the colonization of Campylobacter in broilers.

The expected outcome of this project is to get an increased understanding and thereby optimized utilization of algal products as feed additives which could lead to both improved production efficiency and increased food security.

Project manager:

Emma Ivarson (Department of Animal Nutrition and Management)

Project group:

Helena Wall (Department of Animal Nutrition and Management, SLU), Roger Andersson (Department of Molecular Sciences, SLU), Patrik Ellström (Department of Department of Medical Sciences, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Zoonosis Science Center, Uppsala University), Eva Wattrang (National Veterinary Institute ), Henrik Pavia, Department of Marine Sciences, University of Gothenburg.

Press photos

May be published free of charge in connection with articles about this project. Photographer should be specified.

Emma Ivarsson holding a long brown algae in her hand. Photo.

Emma Ivarson with brown algae (photo Jolin Währn)


Brown algae. Photo.

Brown algae at Tjärnö research station  (photo Jolin Währn)


The project is running 2017-2021 and is financed by Formas.