Amino Acid Nutrition and Metabolism in Chickens
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Both poultry meat and eggs provide high-quality animal protein [containing sufficient amounts and proper ratios of amino acids (AAs)] for human consumption and, therefore, play an important role in the growth, development, and health of all individuals. Because there are growing concerns about the suboptimal efficiencies of poultry production and its impact on environmental sustainability, much attention has been paid to the formulation of low-protein diets and precision nutrition through the addition of low-cost crystalline AAs or alternative sources of animal-protein feedstuffs. This necessitates a better understanding of AA nutrition and metabolism in chickens. Although historic nutrition research has focused on nutritionally essential amino acids (EAAs) that are not synthesized or are inadequately synthesized in the body, increasing evidence shows that the traditionally classified nutritionally nonessential amino acids (NEAAs), such as glutamine and glutamate, have physiological and regulatory roles other than protein synthesis in chicken growth and egg production. In addition, like other avian species, chickens do not synthesize adequately glycine or proline (the most abundant AAs in the body but present in plant-source feedstuffs at low content) relative to their nutritional and physiological needs. Therefore, these two AAs must be sufficient in poultry diets. Animal proteins (including ruminant meat & bone meal and hydrolyzed feather meal) are abundant sources of both glycine and proline in chicken nutrition. Clearly, chickens (including broilers and laying hens) have dietary requirements for all proteinogenic AAs to achieve their maximum productivity and maintain optimum health particularly under adverse conditions such as heat stress and disease. This is a paradigm shift in poultry nutrition from the 70-year-old “ideal protein” concept that concerned only about EAAs to the focus of functional AAs that include both EAAs and NEAAs.