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Researchers Find ‘Cannabis’ a Viable Antibiotic Alternative for Poultry

Due to rising antibiotic resistance and consumer concerns, antibiotic use in poultry and other livestock is being scrutinized. When bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them, it can devastate poultry flocks and affect farmers' livelihoods.

Shivam Dwivedi
Cannabis
Cannabis

Marijuana has been introduced into the diets of free-range chickens by researchers at Chiang Mai University's Department of Animal and Aquatic Sciences in northern Thailand. Antibiotics are used in the poultry industry to increase meat production through increased feed conversion, growth rate promotion, and disease prevention.

However, due to rising antibiotic resistance and consumer concerns, antibiotic use in poultry and other livestock is being scrutinized. When bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them, it can devastate poultry flocks and affect farmers' livelihoods.

In addition, in response to these concerns, an increasing number of poultry producers have pledged to raise bird antibiotic-free or with no antibiotics ever, and the entire industry is looking for drug-free alternatives that boost bird health.

Much research has been conducted to look for natural agents with similar beneficial effects to growth promoters, and the experiment, while still in its early stages, is yielding promising results, according to Chompunut Lumsangkul, an assistant professor leading the study.

Fewer than 10% of the 1,000 chickens in the experiment have died since the experiment began in January 2021. This mortality rate is similar to what it was before the experiment. Furthermore, at least anecdotally, the cannabis-supplemented chickens had fewer cases of avian bronchitis.

The birds were given cannabis ground up in their food or water, sometimes at twice the THC level allowed for humans. THC is the active ingredient in cannabis that produces a high. Although Lumsangkul admits she has no idea if the birds became high as a result of the special feed, she does note that the chickens behaved normally at all times.

According to Lumsangkul, Thai consumers are willing to pay more for the final antibiotic-free organic chicken product, dubbed "GanjaChicken." "Thai consumers have been paying attention to this because demand for chickens is increasing and many farmers are forced to use antibiotics." "As a result, some customers want to find a safer product," she explained.

Lumsangkul admits that he doesn't know why the experimental flock of chickens fed cannabis remained healthy, and that the compound hasn't been tested against birds infected with avian influenza or other diseases.

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