In the case of the coveted long chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, however, the one food naturally rich in them is fish - which many people don’t like very much and others avoid altogether - or foods and beverages fortified with fish or algal oils.
But when it comes to exploring the potential of 'enriched' foods naturally high in omega-3s because they are from animals fed long-chain omega-3s, we have barely scratched the surface, according to animal nutrition giant Alltech, which says it is now possible to achieve meaningful levels of DHA in milk, eggs, and poultry meat with “surprisingly low” levels of feed supplementation (from 0.5 to 4%).
By meaningful, we’re talking chicken thigh meat with up to 175mg of DHA per 100g, chicken breast meat with 90mg of DHA per 100g and eggs with up to 137mg of DHA each, which shows that achieving the omega-3 dosages cited in the scientific literature is now realistic without having to swallow a bunch of softgels every night, claimed Alltech VP Steve Bourne, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA during the firm’s annual symposium in Lexington this week.
“There are lots of different ways to get your nutrients, and supplements are fine, but many consumers prefer to get them from foods that are naturally high in that nutrient, and manufacturers and retailers recognize that."
Fortification vs enrichment: 'Horizon wants to get the DHA into milk by feeding and going through the cow'
For example, the firm behind one high-profile omega-3 fortified product currently on the market - Horizon DHA Omega-3 milk (fortified with extracted algal DHA) - is now exploring how to produce an enriched product - ie. milk so that is naturally high in DHA, said Alltech director of applications research Rebecca Timmons.
"Horizon wants to get the DHA by feeding and going through the cow, and we are currently doing dairy trials to establish the levels of DHA that can be achieved by feeding our product. Our algae is a bit different because the oil is still inside the algae cell and we have shown that it is protected in the rumen."
Asked about beef, she added: "Most of our work has been in eggs, poultry and fish so far. Beef is a little more difficult... but we are also working on enrichment levels."
Our global yeast business is worth something like $500m, and we think algae could be even bigger