“The nutritional composition of chicken has changed considerably from what it was 30 or more years ago, and this brings about a need to know its current nutritional values. In recent years, we have seen remarkable progress in sustainability,” underscored José Miguel Torres, veterinarian and Deputy Manager of Nutrition for Agrosuper’s Chicken Department. He was one of the speakers of the webinar “Nutritional Quality of Meat in Chile, a view from the Academy and the Industry” held by the Nutrition and Dietetics program of Universidad Católica’s Faculty of Medicine in conjunction with Agrosuper on May 13.

In the agri-food sector and the meat industry, nutrition genetics, research, and optimization programs evolve every year, as stated by two of the webinar’s speakers. The Zoom meeting was attended by directors from the Health Sciences Department, representatives of health sciences institutions, doctors, and nutrition professionals. Arnoldo Riquelme, Director of the organizing UC Health Sciences Department, and Cristián Meyer, Agrosuper’s Innovation Manager, addressed the audience as well. Meyer pointed out, “we want this series of webinars to disseminate relevant information about animal protein in people’s nutrition, but above all to promote a balanced diet among the population.”

During the first talk, “The Importance of Chicken Consumption in Human Nutrition and Nutritional Information about Chicken Meat,” Loreto Rojas, dietitian, holder of a Master’s degree, and Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Universidad Católica, talked about dietary requirements and how to eat the right amount of nutrients on a daily basis. “As part of a balanced diet, the nutritional quality of chicken is a result of its low-fat content and its high levels of high-quality protein, vitamin B12, iron, and zinc. In addition, certain factors explain the variability of the nutritional content of meat, such as genetics and animal nutrition,” she pointed out. The professor explained that the slaughtering, processing, and preparation of foods can change the nutritional composition of chicken meat.

She also stated that eating 100 grams of chicken may cover up to 54% of the daily requirement of vitamin B12, or more than half of the amount we need. Rojas also explained that this amount of chicken provides 5% of iron to women and 11% to men. As for zinc, it contributes 13% to women and 9% to men.

“This amount must be complemented with other indicators for us to be able to assess the protein quality of a food. One of these indicators is the content of essential amino acids. As their name implies, we cannot synthesize them and they must be added through food,” she stated.

Rojas also asserted that: “Regarding total and saturated fat, chicken and turkey are the least fatty when compared to other meats.” Finally, she highlighted the importance of nutritional labeling when choosing foods. “Nutritional messages can guide decision making when buying,” she concluded.

Later, José Miguel Torres, who oversees Agrosuper’s chicken feeding and nutrition, took the floor. During his presentation, “The Evolution of Chicken Meat,” he provided figures and data on chicken production and consumption worldwide. In 2019, 98.4 million tons of this protein were produced worldwide, with the United States, Brazil, China, and the European Union as main producers. Torres mentioned Chile’s situation, which currently ranks 23rd. This is due to a favorable growth trend in addition to high local standards of biosecurity and food safety that have facilitated a continuous growth in exports and the increased quality of the products offered both domestically and abroad. He also talked about chicken consumption in Chile, noting that there is an upward trend. “The average Chilean eats about 32 kg of chicken a year, and in ten years that number is expected to increase by 12%.”

After a brief presentation on Agrosuper, Torres highlighted the role of vertical integration and how it makes it possible to control every area (suppliers, feed producing plants, breeding, and processing plants). “All controls are focused on quality (dioxin control programs, antibiotics, etc.) and the entire industry is carrying out a series of mixed programs, which include the health authority and the Agricultural and Livestock Service, for meat exports. This traceability provides assurance for the distribution of meat to the Chilean population and for exports,” he stated.

Torres then covered topics related to nutrition, health, and breeding, which involves new technologies; as well as animal welfare and sustainability, all of great relevance to the industry today, and suggested that today the industry seeks to achieve precision nutrition. He also highlighted the importance of raw material safety, i.e., the manufacturing process of chicken feed.

“Chickens are always exposed to diseases, viruses, and bacteria that may affect the way we control everything. However, technology today allows us to have greater control over the entire production process. There has been further development in areas such as biosecurity, gut health, surveillance, immunity, and employee training,” he added.

“Our job is to produce safe and healthy foods without hormones, which are prohibited by SAG and so there is no physiological or economic reason to justify their use. In addition, I would like to highlight our efforts in quality and safety, the effective compliance with various standards, which demonstrate that our final product complies with all regulations as well as our commitment to achieving balanced and healthy human nutrition. Chicken meat is highly nutritious, high quality, and affordable. We need only look at the evolution of breast yield. In 1980 it was 13% and in 2020 it reached 27.8%. During this time, we have also seen a significant reduction in fat content,” he concluded.