Functional poultry and pork? Thai researchers look to improve fat profiles of meats

By Nathan Gray

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Functional poultry and pork? Thai researchers look to improve fat profiles of meats

Related tags Fatty acids Omega-3 fatty acids Fatty acid Nutrition

It is may be possible to improve the lipid composition of poultry and pork to contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids, say researchers.

The new study, published in Meat Science​, reviewed the opportunities for enriching the fat in meats consumed in Thailand and South East Asia with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs). 

Led by S. Jaturasitha from Chiang Mai University in Thailand, the research team noted that the production and consumption of meat in many ‘transition’ countries such as China, Brazil and Thailand are rapidly changing – adding that in addition to consuming higher quantities of poultry and pork in the past two decades, Thailand has seen a sharp rise in exports of meats to other countries.

“This illustrates that the quality Thai pork and poultry meat has an international relevance as well,”​ wrote the team – adding that nutritional quality is increasingly an important deliberation in food choices made by consumer.

“In the present review (…) we focused on meat enriched with functional fatty acids (omega 3 and CLA) considered beneficial for human health,”​ wrote the team. 

Functional meat

According to Jaturasitha et al​, there are a number of Thailand-specific feeds that could offer promise for the creation of functional meats.

However, they noted that differentiated approach that considers the value of different omega-3 fatty acids and isomers of CLAs, in addition to the applicability to different meats, is needed. 

“In ruminants, it is difficult to enrich the meat with omega 3 fatty acids due to the extensive ruminal biohydrogenation of unsaturated fatty acids, but several possibilities to enhance the proportion of the most desired CLA isomer, rumenic acid, exist,”​ said the team.

“By contrast, pork and poultry meat can be easily enriched with omega 3 fatty acids.”

They added that CLAs could also be enhanced, but noted that it is difficult to achieve this exclusively for rumenic acid.

“An interesting approach might consist in supplementing the CLA precursor vaccenic acid instead,”​ they suggested.

Feed sources​ 

The researchers noted that in tropical Asia in general and in Thailand as a specific country, there are a number of feeds not common in other countries, which may have constituents which are useful in order to enhance proportions of either omega 3 fatty acids or CLA or both.

“As interesting sources for the very long-chain omaga-3 PUFA there is the availability of larger amounts of non-food grade tuna oil,”​ they noted. “Furthermore, microalgae as the original source of the very long-chain omega-3 PUFA in the marine food chain, are interesting feed sources.”

They suggested that further potential and underutilized sources may be in non-defatted fish meal and shrimp offals, while rice bran oil, which is rich in PUFA, is a food industry byproduct specific to Asia.

“This oil could be fed to monogastric animals,”​ they said.

However, the Thai scientists warned that a restriction for both groups of fatty acids, but especially for CLA, is that the very high intakes needed for a nutritional effect in man are greater than can be provided by meat alone.

“In addition, an important question to be solved is that of where to get the corresponding feeds at a reasonable price and in a sustainable manner, i.e. from sources which are not conflicting with world nutrition and scarce resources,”​ they said.

“Options may consist in selling the meat to special, high-priced markets and to use food wastes like non-food grade sources of marine origin in order to spare the world's resources.”

Source: Meat Science
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2016.04.014
“Nutritional strategies to improve the lipid composition of meat, with emphasis on Thailand and Asia”
Authors: S. Jaturasitha, N. Chaiwang, A. Kayan, M. Kreuzer

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