THAILAND- Researchers from Thailand have shed light on the potential of Spirulina sp. as a revolutionary protein ingredient for poultry feeds according to a recent study. 

The study, published in Algal Research, underscores the nutritional significance of Spirulina sp., focusing on its protein content, amino acid profile, protein solubility, and in vitro digestibility.

The global demand for protein in the feed market has been steadily increasing, prompting a search for alternative protein sources as conventional ones like soybean meal (SBM) and fishmeal face overexploitation. 

Algae, known for their rich composition of micronutrients and macronutrients, have emerged as promising candidates due to their high protein content, polysaccharides, vitamins, and minerals while being low in fat.

Various algae species, including Caulerpa sp., Ulva sp., Coelastrella sp., Scenedesmus sp., and Spirulina sp., have gained recognition as potential substitutes for SBM in chicken feed. 

However, the chemical composition of algae varies significantly between and within species, influenced by factors such as harvest season and environmental conditions, as pointed out by the researchers.

The team of animal scientists and biotechnology experts aimed to evaluate the nutritional composition and digestibility of five algae species: Caulerpa lentillifera J. Agardh, Ulva rigida C. Agardh, Spirulina sp., Coelastrella sp., and Scenedesmus sp.

Microscopic analysis was employed to assess the amino acid profiles and physical characteristics of the algae species. Additionally, the researchers evaluated protein solubility and in vitro digestibility by incubating samples with porcine pepsin, porcine pancreatin, and a solution of protease, lipase, and amylase enzymes.

The researchers stressed the importance of digestibility as a critical indicator of the utilization rate of nutritive factors. While in vivo digestibility measurements are considered the most accurate, they are often time-consuming, expensive, and require a substantial number of experimental animals.

In contrast, in vitro digestibility using purified digestive enzymes offers a more efficient and rapid predictor of potential nutritional quality.

The results of the study revealed that Spirulina sp. outperformed other algae species, boasting the highest protein content at 44.44% on a dry matter basis. Spirulina sp. also demonstrated richness in amino acids, including Lys, Thr, and Trp. 

Moreover, it exhibited significantly higher protein solubility, digestibility, and digestible protein compared to other species, with values of 52.35%, 49–67%, and 20.70%, respectively. 

In conclusion, the authors suggest that Spirulina sp. stands out as the most suitable algae for alternative protein sourcing in poultry feed formulations among those assessed. However, they emphasize the need for additional in vivo tests to validate their findings and ensure the practical application of Spirulina sp. in the poultry industry.

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