These chickens have reportedly been fed a diet high in Omega-3s—but is there any real health benefit?
Omega-3 fatty acids have received mass coverage in the last decade as an important “superfood” to incorporate in our diets, but what about adding secondary sources of these healthy fats to other foods? Murray’s Chicken, the first in their industry to be granted the “Certified Humane” label, is now breaking ground with their latest endeavor—Omega-3 enriched poultry called “Nature’s IQ Chicken.” Murray’s worked with the local farmers who source their chicken to supplement their diets with plant-based sources of omega-3s, like flaxseed.
“Nature’s IQ” recently gained attention after Dr. Mehmet Oz chose to investigate Murray’s Chicken and their enriched poultry, along with food journalist Mark Schatzker.
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Research from this investigation explained the average serving of chicken contains only three grams of omega-3 fatty acids, while Murray’s Omega-3 enriched chicken contains 1200 grams. This enriched chicken contained only 400 fewer grams of omega-3s than salmon, typically thought of as the most popular source of this fat. NIH established a daily adequate intake for omega-3 fatty acids as 1100 mg for women 14 and older and 1600 mg for men 14 and older, making “Nature’s IQ” chicken seem like an excellent source.
However, the “Nature’s IQ” chicken’s high omega-3 count is strictly for a serving of the thigh with skin. If you ate the enriched chicken breast, it would only provide 170 milligrams of omega-3’s. While that’s still a significant increase from an average serving of chicken breast, it shouldn’t be considered a replacement for other omega-3 sources.
Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, said while she doesn’t see anything wrong with this practice or product, she won’t be rushing out to buy it.
Williams explained omega-3s are made of three acids— ALA, DHA, and EPA. ALA is the vegetarian source of omega-3s, and is what enriches the feed for the “Nature’s IQ” Chicken. DHA and EPA are sourced from fatty fish and their oils. Even though they’re eaten less often, they’re still important components of the equation. ALA has to be converted to DHA and EPA, making DHA and EPA more efficient sources of omega-3s.
Williams said everyone needs to make sure they are getting enough ALA, but it’s really DHA and EPA most Americans are lacking. However, for consumers who do not get enough of any Omega-3 sources, this could be an option to consider for balancing out their omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid intake ratio.
Schatzker noted scientists are concerned about the modern American diet, as it is significantly higher in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6s most commonly come from nuts, seeds, and oils, which Americans generally consume in excess. This imbalance of omega-3’s and omega-6’s in our bodies has been shown to cause inflammation, which can lead to heart disease, depression, and arthritis, Schatzker said.
While Brierley Horton, MS, RD, believes fatty fish and fish oils are the best sources of Omega-3s, she would recommend “Nature’s IQ” Chicken to worried consumers.
“Most Americans don’t get adequate [amounts of] omega-3s in their diet, so I believe every little extra bump can help them,” Horton said. “Making ingredient ‘upgrades’ is typically easier than adding a food, ingredient, or supplement to your diet that you don’t normally eat.”