The mantra of many chicken owners is “protein is king.” While in some situations this is not wrong, many times animals are over-fed protein or given the wrong amino acid balance.
What does protein do?
Let’s start with proteins and their general functions in the body. Proteins are specific sequences or groups of amino acids that fit together to build a particular protein.
Proteins have many different functions in the body, including building muscle, DNA replication, cell structure, transportation of other molecules, and enzymes that speed up chemical reactions.
Specific to poultry, proteins form feathers, beak, and toenails. Proteins are three-dimensional structures made of specific sequences of amino acids. These amino acids are derived from proteins that the chicken has consumed or synthesized.
Proteins are broken down during digestion into individual amino acids for transport and use throughout the body. Once absorbed, these amino acids are restructured into proteins that the chicken will need. Now, amino acids are divided into two categories; essential and non-essential.
Essential amino acids are ones that the body either cannot produce or cannot produce in enough supply to meet the demands of the different systems. The remainder of essential amino acids must come from the diet. Of these, lysine and threonine must be supplied completely by the diet.
Non-essential amino acids are ones that the body can produce in sufficient quantity to satisfy demand. Not all proteins contain every amino acid and unfortunately, feeds will almost always only list protein as protein or crude protein and not list as individual amino acids.
So, with regards to dietary needs we need to not focus on protein or crude protein in the diet but to look at the source and whether or not those proteins are supplying the correct amino acids.