Waitrose is releasing a new range of premium chicken fed on a diet rich in omega 3, from kelp and seaweed, developed in partnership with chicken supplier Moy Park and feed specialist Devenish Nutrition. The retail giant claims the nutritional benefits of the chicken are enhanced, while the taste of the meat is unaffected.
A poll of 700 US consumers by Nielsen Perishables Group found that 79% expressed interest in chicken enriched with Omega-3 fatty acids, and 58% were willing to pay more for it.
Omega 3 is an important part of the human diet, supporting a healthy heart, brain and vision. The claim of Waitrose is that modifications to customary foods to increase their nutritional qualities can have a significant impact on human health. According to its own trails, "people eating the chicken for just 5 weeks have increased levels of omega 3": to what extent non-omega 3 chicken - and other sources of omega 3 - were regularly part of their previous diets is unclear.
This is an interesting signal of the scope for us to get smart about the nutritional impacts of our extended food chain. It's not just about what we eat, but about what else goes into our diet - particularly for carnivores and pescivores.
Feed is also a concern from a resource point of view. If we really want a diet rich in Omega 3, why not eat kelp and seaweed directly, rather than feed it to chickens first? Taste may be a barrier for some, runs one counter-argument. However, whether we can sustain the volume of chickens currently consumed - and the volume needed to raise our Omega 3 intake to levels recommended by nutritionists - is questionable.