Nov. 19, 1998 CLEMSON - Garlic may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of air fresheners, but Clemson University scientists are finding that it works like a charm in poultry houses ... and may lower the cholesterol in eggs, to boot.
"We're feeding the chickens about 3 percent of their diet in garlic powder to mask the odor of the waste," said Glenn Birrenkott, Clemson animal and veterinary science professor. "It makes the poultry house smell like a pizzeria instead of manure."
As urban populations expand into rural areas, the potential increases for conflict between neighborhood sensibilities and farm necessities. As a result, farmers must find creative solutions to produce the meat and eggs suburbanites want in their grocery stores but not in their backyards. Clemson scientists are conducting a variety of studies to address livestock waste management as part of an initiative funded by the South Carolina General Assembly through the South Carolina Agriculture and Forestry Research System based at Clemson.
Birrenkott's research found that it took about three weeks for the garlic to reduce the poultry house odor compared to the odor from a control group of laying hens. The researchers have already conducted taste tests and found that people preferred the eggs produced by the garlic-eating hens.
"The tasters said the eggs were milder from the chickens eating garlic than from the control hens," Birrenkott said. "We think it might reduce the sulfur content of the eggs."
While the chickens adapted to eating garlic right away, hogs in a companion test were more reluctant to accept the new feed.
"Hogs have a very sensitive sense of smell. That's why they're used in France to find truffles," Birrenkott said. After a day or so of boycotting the feed, however, the hogs did cooperate in the study, with similar promising results on odor control. Chemical analyses of the cholesterol content of the eggs and pork are also being conducted.
While the garlic is effective in controlling odor, it is more expensive than basic chicken or hog feed. This means the eggs and pork may require a premium price to be cost effective for commercial producers. However, if the products prove to contain a lower cholesterol level, they could qualify as specialty items because of the health benefit.
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