14 June 2002

Linseed animal feed thats good for our health

FEEDING pigs a diet including linseed could have human health benefits, according to MLC pig technical manager Pinder Gill.

A study conducted at the MLCs Stotfold research centre has shown that including linseed in pig diets increases the ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acids in pigmeat.

"In the trial, 80 pigs were fed either a control or a test diet from 25kg to 95kg, the test diet included linseed at 3% which contains alpha-linoleic acid. Pigs convert this to polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)," says Mr Gill.

Similar results can also be achieved by adding fish oils to the diet, but this often results in pigmeat becoming tainted with a fishy taste.

"Including linseed at 3% in the test diet resulted in a 100% increase in levels of EPA in pigmeat and a 35% increase in DHA. Feeding the test diet also resulted in an increase of the ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acids from 0.5 to 0.4 in pigmeat," he explains.

"These increases may have health benefits for consumers because both EPA and DHA are protective factors against heart disease and are commonly taken as nutritional supplements.

"We have a number of producers looking to use this commercially, it does not add to feed cost significantly. While it may not command a premium price, it is certainly another positive benefit of pigmeat.

"A number of other countries already have functional foods as the norm, Europe has for some time lagged behind areas such as south east Asia in not implementing these developments."

Consumers have, historically, been urged to reduce their fat intake, now we must re-educate them to eat meats with a high polyunsaturated fat content. Developments such as these will bolster the image of red meat, adds Mr Gill

A limiting factor in the inclusion of linseed in pig diets is that it increases susceptibility to rancidity, which can cause fishy taints in bacon and reduce shelf-life of pigmeat. &#42