You have probably come across Sakura Chicken and Cordyceps chicken at the supermarkets before right? Ever wondered where these chickens come from and what makes them different?
To find out, I visited the Kee Song brothers’ farms in Johor to learn about their cutting edge technology in chicken farming. In 2005, Kee Song brothers brought in Japanaese lactobacillus technology to produce Sakura Chickens which have been sold through NTUC supermarkets. Since then they have have teamed up with Otemchi, a local Biotech company to pursue their own lactobacillus technology.
So just what is lactobacillus technology all about?
In short the technology allows farmers to be able to rear chickens without the need for antibiotics. Antibiotics like bacitracin are widely used in large scale chicken farming in order to prevent chickens from developing diseases which can potentially wipe out a few thousand chickens at one time. Antibiotics also have another important function which is to act as a growth promoter to make chickens grow faster. However, these antibiotics can cause problems because traces of it will remain in the bird which is then ingested by consumers. Some farms practice a antibiotic washout period where no antibiotics are fed to the birds for a period of time just before slaughter. These birds will be certified antibiotics free once the amount of antibiotics falls below a certain level in the bird at the time of slaughter. There is also the fear that liberal use of antibiotics will cause the bacteria to develop resistance to the antibiotic which will pose a huge public health problem.
By using their own lactobacillus technology, Kee Song brothers have become the first large scale chicken producer in South East Asia to be able to breed chickens without the use of antibiotics. Lactobacillus is a kind of bacteria, but the good kind that does no harm to its host. What lactobacillus does is that when ingested, they colonize the gut of the chicken (or humans for that matter) thereby preventing harmful bacteria from being able to infect the bird. By feeding the chickens lactobacillus, they have been able to breed healthier chickens with increased immunity to infections. Their technology has resulted in a survival rate of 98% which is even higher than the industrial average of 95% with birds reared on antibiotics. In addition, birds reared on lactobacillus also have less fat and less cholesterol. In particular there is an increase of polyunsaturated fat and a decrease of saturated fat. What that means is a healthier chicken which is safer for consumption.
Kee Song’s lactobacillus technology has attracted world wide attention and large scale farmers from all over the world have visited their farm to see how they managed to achieve such a high survival rate without the use of antibiotics. The secret lies in our local strains of lactobacillus which Otemchi has harvested and nurtured locally. Like humans, there are many strains or “races” of lactobacillus. Otemchi’s research has found is that the tropical strains of lactobacillus found locally are more robust and well suited for large scale chicken farming!
In their quest to produce chickens which are safer and healthier for consumers, Kee Song has just introduced their premium Carogold Chickens. These are birds which have been bred using lactobacillus technology with no antibiotics from day 1. The lactobacillus colonize the gut which results in lower cholesterol and fat levels in the bird. As a result, the Carogold Chicken is the first chicken to be certified by the HPB as a “healthier choice” as the total amount of fat in the chicken is 30% less than the normal broiler. In addition, the birds are also fed with carotene and lutein which turns the skin in to a healthy golden yellow while at the same time turning chicken meat into a functional food. Lutein is often thought of as an eye vitamin which is used to prevent eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and retinitis pigmentosa.
The effect of the special feed on the Carogold bird is quite obvious. They are smaller than the normal broiler of the same age because they are bred without growth enhancers. That means that the meat of the chicken has got more time to mature which produces better quality meat. Carotene is an orange pigment that gives carrots their orangey colour. I sometimes see alarmed parents bringing babies to my clinic because they look orangey. Most of the time this is due to the fact that the babies are just starting on solids and have been given lots of carrots! The same thing happens to a chicken that has been given carotene in the feed. Their skin, legs and head turns into a golden orangey hue.
Since chickens fed with lactobacillus are supposed to have healthier guts, I requested for a Carogold chicken and a normal broiler in order to examine the insides for myself. It has been a while since I did colorectal surgery, so it was quite fun to be able to do some dissection again. As you can see from the photos, the inside of the bird from the skin to the fats and the intestines have taken on a golden hue.
Closer examination of the intestines show that the guts of the Carogold chicken are smaller with less engorged blood vessels.
The most obvious difference can be seen when the intestines and cut open. As you can see from the photo, the mucosal surface of the white broilers are full of blood vessels (inflamed) while that of the Carogold chicken looks much healthier.
It is good to know that a Singaporean company is leading the world in chicken breeding technology. From what I am told, Kee Song brothers are the first in the world to be able to breed chickens on such a large scale without the need for antibiotics and achieving a higher success rate than conventional methods. As a result, they have gotten the attention of some of the world’s largest chicken producers who have visited their farm recently to learn about their technology.
Chicken is the most popular meat amongst Singaporeans and I am sure that most of us eat chicken every week. It is good to know that we now can choose a healthier chicken that has lower cholesterol and saturated fat levels with the added benefits of carotene and lutein!
Carogold chicken is available Kee Song Brothers online store: http://online.keesong.com/
This article has been sponsored by Kee Song Brothers