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Protein Quality

Health Articles / Protein Quality

Not all protein is the same
Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are 22 different amino acids. Birds are unable to make eight of these themselves so they must eat them. These are called essential amino acids, for obvious reasons.

The amino acid composition of plant proteins is different from the composition of animal proteins (including birds). Plants contain less of some essential amino acids than birds. Because 22 is far to big a number to work with let's imagine two identical plant proteins made up of four amino acids A, B, C and D.

Each protein contains 4 As, 4 Bs, 4 Cs and 2 Ds. A similar bird protein may contain four of all four amino acids:

When a bird attempts to make its own protein from the plant that it has eaten it can only make up one protein molecule. There is simply not enough D to make a second one. We call D a limiting amino acid.

The left over amino acids are broken down and excreted via the kidneys. In this example the bird uses 16 of the 28 amino acid molecules that it has eaten. The other 12 (42%) are wasted and have to be excreted via the kidneys.

It is easy see that by adding just four Ds to this bird's diet it would be able to use all the plant protein it eats.  These extra "Ds" are incorporated into many of our on-food supplements - Daily Essentials3, Daily Essentials4, and Feather-Up, BirdPark Essentials , Raptor and Raptor Breeder Essentials and Insect Essentials.  They are in Feast as well but only in adequate quantities to balance the protein in that product.  There are not enough to balance the protein in the rest of a seed based diet.

Although this is a simplified example using just four different amino acids the real situation with 22 amino acids produces a very similar result. To quantify this a typical seed and/or fruit diet contains about 12% "raw" protein but the bird can only use about 7% of this. When boosted to 20% raw protein by adding high protein sources derived from plants,such as pulses, the birds can use about 12%. The Daily Essentials range is designed to help the bird make all the raw protein usable.

With amino acids added to the diet (in adequate quantities) your birds will eat less (they get the same amount of useable protein from less food) so your seed bill goes down and your birds will not get overweight.  Young chicks will grow better and all birds will moult faster and with the best possible feather quality.


Interestingly we've also had excellent results on some birds with just our Daily Essentials1 (no amino acids). This is because the very highly bio-available sulphur source we put into all Essentials products helps with feathering too. For birds that refuse to eat soft foods, fruits or vegetables this is an excellent compromise.