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From the News Archives...

Let them eat worms and insects!

Chickens and turkeys are not ruminants, so they cannot get all their nutrients from grass. In particular, they need a source of high quality protein. In confinement operations, chickens are fed soybeans (often from genetically modified seeds), ground-up chickens, and sometimes chicken or cow manure.

In the wild, chickens and turkeys get their protein from worms and insects. A hidden advantage of these natural sources of protein is that they are relatively high in omega-3 fatty acids. In a number of countries, including the Philippines, small farmers continue to feed worms to their birds. For example, one small farmer near Manila has three plots of earthworms. Each morning, he opens the gates to the worm beds and invites his chickens to forage.

We propose that the US government fund at least one study that focuses on the feasibility of raising worms as chicken feed. Part of the money can come from selling the worm castings—an excellent fertilizer—and the rest can be diverted from the dozens of studies now investigating how to remove drug residues from poultry manure and ground up hens so that they can be fed safely to our nation's livestock.

(If you care to learn more about the practice of feeding chickens to chickens, visit the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension web page.)

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