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Are chickens vegetarian?

By the U of A System Division of Agriculture

(203 words)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Are chickens vegetarians?

When you watch birds in the wild, you’ll see them gobble up insects in addition to scratching for seeds. Chickens grown for food production also get a diet that includes animal proteins, said Mike Kidd, professor, poultry science for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“Broiler chickens are fed diets with ingredients of known composition so that diets provide nutrients to support maintenance and growth of the bird,” he said. “The two principal ingredient classes fed to broilers are cereals such as corn to primarily provide broilers calories and oilseeds such as soybean meal to primarily provide broilers amino acids. 

“In addition, it is commonplace for diets to include fats and oils from animal or vegetable sources to provide calories, and meat meals from animal origin and purified amino acids to primarily provide amino acids,” he said. “The final make-up of the diet is dependent upon the balance of all required nutrients for the bird and the cost of the ingredients offered for blending.”

Broilers can eat an all-vegetable diet or a vegetable diet with oils and meals from animal origin. Formulating diets for energy and amino acids for bird growth are the primary cost drivers. 

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About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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