Researcher Mohammad Al Mamun of the Bangladesh Agriculture University (BAU), after four years of research, has discovered that a herb, plantain grass, can be used to increase growth in livestock and poultry.
Broiler chickens has become a popular alternative to free-run local chickens as the local poultry is higher in price and lower in production. The broiler chickens reared in the poultry farms meet the country's growing demand for animal protein.
However, poultry farmers use harmful antibiotics or growth promoters to produce more flesh in less time. Many people avoid eating broiler chicken fearing heavy metals and harmful substances entering the human body through consumption of the chicken flesh.
Al Mamun, professor of the animal husbandry department, revealed the findings through a panel test at the university’s Shahjalal Husbandry Laboratory. He claimed that the process involving plantain would not just increase poultry production, but would also increase the nutritional value of the meat.
“Antibiotics and hormones can increase growth but severely hinder immunity in the animal's body. The meat, milk or eggs produced through in this process may cause chronic illnesses such as cardiac disease, diabetes and autism in the human body,” Al Mamun told Prothom Alo.
“Such hormones are banned in developed countries, but are being used indiscriminately in Bangladesh,” he added.
Mohammad Al Mamun started researching on plantain grass as the alternative to harmful antibiotics in Japan in 2004.
The BAU professor has been successful in using plantain grass for livestock (cattle and sheep) as an alternative to harmful growth hormones.
The use of plantain grass in the rearing of broiler chicken enhanced the production and the quality of meat. This meat is rich in Omega-3, a beneficial antioxidant for the human body.
Omega-3 is a fatty acid, which reduces harmful fat in the human body, reduces tendency of heartburn, stroke, cancer, cataract, memory loss and aging.
Plantain (plantago lanceolata L) is a perennial herbivorous plant. Al Mamun was able to adapt and cultivate this plant after three years of research that he started in 2011 in Bangladesh.
He introduced plantain grass cultivation as a crop and as poultry feed at a field level in his home district of Manikganj in 2017.
At least 12 tonnes of plantain grass can be cultivated on 1 acre of land. This can feed 420,000 broiler chickens.
About production costs, Al-Mamun said that broiler chickens can be fed fresh and dry plantain leaves as well as in powdered form. The cost of hormones for a 28-day chicken is about 5 taka whereas plantain grass for the same costs 2.21 taka.
The study also found that lower death rates in plantain-fed poultry.
The flesh of chickens fed with plantain grass is low in harmful fat content and the taste and colour are natural. The bones of these chickens are harder too, the study says.
The process as a substitute for antibiotics for the growth of animals and chickens is named as Bau-Plantive.
Researchers claim, the safe and nutritious meat produced by this process will increase the demand of broiler chicken as animal protein.