Skip to main content

Modern organic and broiler chickens sold for human consumption provide more energy from fat than protein

  • Yiqun Wang (a1), Catherine Lehane (a1), Kebreab Ghebremeskel (a1) and Michael A Crawford (a1)

In 1976, the Royal College of Physicians and the British Cardiac Society recommended eating less fatty red meat and more poultry instead because it was lean. However, the situation has changed since that time, with a striking increase in fat content of the standard broiler chicken. The aim of the present study was to report a snapshot of data on fat in chickens now sold to the public.


Samples were obtained randomly between 2004 and 2008 from UK supermarkets, farm shops and a football club. The amount of chicken fat was estimated by emulsification and chloroform/methanol extraction.


Food sold in supermarkets and farms in England.


Chicken samples.


The fat energy exceeded that of protein. There has been a loss of n-3 fatty acids. The n-6:n-3 ratio was found to be as high as 9:1, as opposed to the recommendation of about 2:1. Moreover, the TAG level in the meat and whole bird mostly exceeded the proportion of phospholipids, which should be the higher for muscle function. The n-3 fatty acid docosapentaenoic acid (DPA, 22 : 5n-3) was in excess of DHA (22 : 6n-3). Previous analyses had, as usual for birds, more DHA than DPA.


Traditional poultry and eggs were one of the few land-based sources of long-chain n-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, which is synthesized from its parent precursor in the green food chain. In view of the obesity epidemic, chickens that provide several times the fat energy compared with protein seem illogical. This type of chicken husbandry needs to be reviewed with regard to its implications for animal welfare and human nutrition.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Modern organic and broiler chickens sold for human consumption provide more energy from fat than protein
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Modern organic and broiler chickens sold for human consumption provide more energy from fat than protein
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Modern organic and broiler chickens sold for human consumption provide more energy from fat than protein
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Email
Hide All
1.Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium (2005) Initial sequence of the chimpanzee genome and comparison with the human genome. Nature 437, 6987.
2.Crawford MA (1968) Fatty acid ratios in free living and domestic animals. Lancet i, 13291333.
3.Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization (1978) FAO/WHO Joint Expert Consultation on The Role of Dietary Fats and Oils in Human Nutrition. Nutrition Report no. 3. Rome: FAO.
4.Rozengurt E, Rey O & Waldron RT (2005) Protein kinase D signalling. J Biol Chem 280, 1320513208.
5.Crawford MA, Casperd NM & Sinclair AJ (1976) The long chain metabolites of linoleic and linolenic acids in liver and brain in herbivores and carnivores. Comp Biochem Physiol 54B, 395401.
6.Crawford MA, Golfetto I, Bistanis D, Ghebremeskel K, Min Y, Moodley T, Poston L, Phylactos A, Cunnane S & Schmidt W (2003) Arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids in protection against central nervous system damage in preterm infants. Lipids 38, 303315.
7.Holman RT (1964) Nutritional and metabolic interrelationships between fatty acids. Fed Proc 23, 10621067.
8.Holman RT (1970) Biological activities of and requirements for poly-unsaturated acids. Progr Chem Fats 9, 611682.
9.Budowski P & Crawford MA (1985) α-Linolenic acid as a regulator of the metabolism of arachidonic acid: dietary implications of the ratio n-6:n-3 fatty acids. Proc Nutr Soc 44, 221229.
10.Crawford MA & Crawford SM (1972) What We Eat Today, p. 142, 148, 161. London: Neville Spearman.
11.Andlin-Sobocki P & Wittchen HU (2005) Cost of anxiety disorders in Europe. Eur J Neurol 12, Suppl. 1, 3944.
12.Lord Morris of Manchester, Question to Lord Warner, Hansard HL vol. 2561 col. WA83 (5 December 2005).
13.Ghebremeskel K, Bitsanis D, Koukkou E, Lowy C, Poston L & Crawford MA (1999) Saturated fat maternal diet in the pregnant rat reduces docosahexaenoic acid in liver lipids of the neonate and suckling pups. Br J Nutr 81, 395404.
14.Ghosh P, Butsanis D, Ghebremeskel K, Crawford MA & Poston L (2001) Abnormal fatty acid composition and small artery function in offspring of rats fed a high fat diet in pregnancy. J Physiol 533, 815822.
15.Armitage JA, Lakasing L, Taylor PD, Balachandran AA, Jensen RI, Dekou V, Ashton N, Nyengaard JR & Poston L (2005) Developmental programming of aortic and renal structure in offspring of rats fed fat-rich diets in pregnancy. J Physiol 565, 171184.
16.Barker DJ (2006) Adult consequences of fetal growth restriction. Clin Obstet Gynecol 49, 270283.
17.Birch EE, Garfield S, Castaneda Y, Hughbanks-Wheaton D, Uauy R & Hoffman D (2007) Visual acuity and cognitive outcomes at 4 years of age in a double-blind, randomized trial of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid-supplemented infant formula. Early Hum Dev 85, 279284.
18.Joseph A, Ackerman D, Talley JD, Johnstone J & Kupersmith J (1993) Manifestations of coronary atherosclerosis in young trauma victims – an autopsy study. J Am Coll Cardiol 22, 459467.
19.Shaper AG (Chair) (1976) Prevention of coronary heart disease. Report of a Joint Working Party of the Royal College of Physicians of London and the British Cardiac Society. J R Coll Physicians Lond 10, 213275.
20.Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1998) Fatty Acids. Seventh Supplement to McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods, 5th ed. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry.
21.Bligh EG & Dyer WJ (1959) A rapid method of total lipid extraction and purification. Can J Biochem Physiol 37, 911917.
22.Folch J, Lees M & Stanley GHS (1957) A simple method for the isolation and purification of total lipids from animal tissues. J Biol Chem 226, 497509.
23.Sato N & Murata N (1991) Transition of lipid phase in aqueous dispersions of diacylglyceryltrimethylhomoserine. Biochim Biophys Acta 1082, 1081111.
24.Doyle W, Crawford MA & Laurance BM (1982) Dietary survey during pregnancy in a low socio-economic group. J Hum Nutr 36A, 95106.
25.Crawford MA, Gale MM, Woodford MH & Casperd NM (1970) Comparative studies on fatty acid composition of wild and domestic meats. Int J Biochem 1, 295305.
26.Budowski P, Hawkey CM & Crawford MA (1980) L’effet protecteur de l’acide α-linolenique sur l’encephalomalacie chez le poulet. Ann Nutr Alim 34, 389400.
27.Hibbeln JR, Nieminen LR & Lands WE (2004) Increasing homicide rates and linoleic acid consumption among five Western countries, 1961–2000. Lipids 39, 12071213.
28.Tanskanen A, Hibbeln JR, Tuomilehto J, Uutela A, Haukkala A, Viinamaki H, Lehtonen J & Vartiainen E (2001) Fish consumption and depressive symptoms in the general population in Finland. Psychiatr Serv 52, 529531.
29.Hibbeln JR, Davis JM, Steer C, Emmett P, Rogers I, Williams C & Golding J (2007) Maternal seafood consumption in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood (ALSPAC study): an observational cohort study. Lancet 369, 578585.
30.Budowski P, Leighfield MJ & Crawford MA (1987) Nutritional encephalomalacia in the chick: an exposure of the vulnerable period for cerebellar development and the possible need for both ω6 and ω3 fatty acids. Br J Nutr 58, 511520.
31.Sprecher H, Luthria DL, Mohammed BS & Baykousheva SP (1995) Reevaluation of the pathways for the biosynthesis of polyunsaturated fatty acids. J Lipid Res 36, 24712477.
32.Crawford MA, Gale MM & Woodford MH (1969) Linoleic acid and linolenic acid elongation products in muscle tissue of Syncerus caffer and other ruminant species. Biochem J 115, 2527.
33.Sun J, Coon C, Mark R, Poch S, Rosebrough R, Ashwell C & McMurtry J (2006) The relationship of body composition, feed intake and metabolic hormones for broiler breeder females. Poult Sci 85, 11731184.
34.National Audit Office (2001) Tackling Obesity in England. (accessed August 2009).
35.National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence & National Collaborating Centre for Primary Care (2006) Obesity: the prevention, identification, assessment and management of overweight and obesity in adults and children. (accessed August 2009).
36.Nurse J (2008) Mental health – new horizons after the national service framework. Keynote Seminar presented at the Westminster Health Forum, London, 17 July 2008.
37.Letheby H (1872) On Food, 2nd ed. London: Bailliere, Tindall and Cox.
38.Atwater WO & Woods CD (1896) The Chemical Composition of American Food Materials. USDA Bulletin no. 28. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
39.McCance RA & Widdowson EM (1940) The Chemical Composition of Foods. Medical Research Council, Special Report Series no. 235. London: HMSO.
40.Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (1953) Food Composition Tables for International Use, 2nd ed. Rome: FAO.
41.Royal Society of Chemistry & Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1991) McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods, 5th ed.Cambridge: RSC and MAFF.
42.Royal Society of Chemistry, Food Standards Agency & Institute of Food Research (2002) McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods, 6th ed. Cambridge: RSC.
43.Food Standards Agency (2004) Labelling and Composition of Meat Products: Guidance Notes. London: FSA.
44.Paul AA, Southgate DAT & Russell J (1980) First Supplement to McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods: Amino acids, mg per 100 g food, fatty acids, g per 100 g food. London: HMSO.
45.US Department of Agriculture (2006) Chicken, broilers or fryers, meat and skin, raw. NDB no. 05006. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release SR19., also available at (accessed August 2009).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
  • EISSN: 1475-2727
  • URL: /core/journals/public-health-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 60
Total number of PDF views: 283 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 828 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 17th February 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.