Classes of Feedstuffs

A number of classes of feed stuffs are available for use by the poultry industry. Modern poultry diets are formulated based on the Metabolizable Energy (ME) content of the diet which represents the energy available from the diet to fuel metabolism within the birds. The vast majority of all poultry diets fed in the United States are based on corn and soybean meal, with small amounts of fat, calcium, phosphorus, salt, vitamins and trace minerals. Cereal grains like corn are added primarily as a source of metabolizable energy although they also contribute some protein as well. Grains may represent as much as 60 to 70 percent of a poultry diet. Protein requirements are provided primarily by soybean meal with the optional addition of animal feed stuffs such as meat and bone meal. By-product ingredients such as wheat middling are used to reduce overall diet cost and improve pellet quality with respect to wheat by-products. Think of making a peanut butter sandwich with corn bread rather than wheat bread. The wheat bread holds together a lot better. Poultry nutritionists often add wheat to the diet to help the pellets remain strong and bind together.


  • Barley
  • Corn
  • Grain Sorghum
  • Wheat

Processing By-Products

  • Animal Fat (Feed Grade)
  • Distillers Dried Grain w/solubles (DDG)
  • Rice Bran
  • Wheat Bran
  • Wheat Middlings and Shorts

Animal Protein

  • Fish Meal
  • Meat & Bone Meal
  • Poultry By-product Meal


BARLEY – Barley ranks fourth in world production of cereal grain crops, both in acreage harvested and production. It is more suited to production in northern regions, and is a principal feed grain in the northern US. Half of the barley produced in the US is used for livestock and poultry feed. Barley does contain gluten, and seems to have some positive glycemic properties.

CORN – Corn, the most commonly used grain in the United States, is widely available, and is high in energy. No limitations are placed on its use for human and livestock consumption and for industrial products, such as starches, sweeteners, corn oil, beverage and industrial alcohol, and fuel ethanol. Thousands of foods and other everyday items, from toothpaste to cosmetics to adhesives to shoe polish, contain corn components. Corn is nontoxic and highly palatable. Corn has to be ground to increase digestibility before feeding to commercial poultry.

GRAIN SORGHUM – Grain sorghum is the third most important cereal crop grown in the United States behind corn and wheat. This grain is comparable to corn with a feeding value roughly 90 to 95% of corn. When compared to corn, it contains more protein but less fat. Grain sorghum ranks second to corn in the amount used for feed. Grinding grain sorghum increases digestibility and maximizes benefits.

WHEAT – Wheat is primarily used for human consumption (bread and cereal foods). When used in an animal feed, wheat should be limited to only 50% of the total grain content. The high gluten content in wheat makes it an excellent ingredient to use for improving pellet quality in poultry diets. Wheat is coarsely ground or cracked for feeding. Feed mills avoid grinding wheat to a fine meal because of dust hazards during processing. Any grain dust can be highly explosive.

Processing By-Products

ANIMAL FAT (Feed Grade) – Feed-grade animal fats are usually rendered from beef, pork, and poultry raw materials. Feeding these fats provides a concentrated source of energy, and also reduces dustiness of the feed, increases palatability, and provide a source of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid (EFA).

DISTILLERS DRIED GRAINS w/solubles – Distillers dried grains with solubles (DDG or DDGS) are a by-product of the distillation process; either from brewing or ethanol production. These grain residues have been dried to 10 – 12% moisture, and are stable enough to be shipped for a considerable distance without spoilage. This by-product is packaged and traded as a commodity.

RICE BRAN – When the chaff, or seed coat, is removed from rough rice, the remaining cereal grain is called brown rice. Removing the bran, or residual husk and germ, from brown rice, results in the familiar white rice. Rice bran is high in protein, dietary fiber, and essential fatty acids. Rice bran can be as high as 16% protein, but adding excessive amounts of rice bran in poultry diets may increase rancidity.

WHEAT BRAN – Wheat bran is the seed coat remaining after wheat is manufactured into flour. It is added to poultry feeds to lower overall diet cost when available at a reasonable price. It is recommended to add no more than 10% wheat bran to the diet because of the high bulk, the laxative effect and possible rancidity concerns.

WHEAT MIDDLINGS AND SHORTS – These by-products are generally screenings, bran, germ, and flour remnants from wheat milling. They are higher in fiber, protein, and minerals than are the whole wheat grains. Wheat middlings and shorts are used to improve pellet quality in poultry feeds and lower the caloric content of certain poultry diets such as those used for broiler breeder flocks.

Plant Proteins

LINSEED MEAL – Linseed meal is a by-product of flaxseed when the fat is extracted. It contains 35% protein. Linseed meal is sometimes used in laying hen diets to increase the omega–3 fatty acid content of eggs.

CANOLA MEAL – Canola was developed through conventional plant breeding from rapeseed, an oilseed plant already used in ancient civilization as a fuel. Rapeseed was once considered a specialty crop in Canada; canola has since become a major American cash crop. Canola meal contains approximately 40 percent crude protein. It is an oilseed meal used to supplement and sometimes replace soybean meal in poultry feeds, particularly in the northern latitudes of the United States and Canada.

PEANUT MEAL – Ground peanut kernels with the fat extracted is peanut meal. The protein content is approximately 35% but varies depending on the amount of hulls and the method used to extract the fat. Peanut meal is a fair source of protein for poultry.

SOYBEAN MEAL – Soybean meal is the most commonly used plant protein source. Most commercial diets contain large amounts of soybean meal. It is a very palatable supplement, and contains either 44% or 48.5% protein, depending on whether or not the hulls have been removed during the oil extraction process. It is usually the most economical protein source for animal diets produced in the US.

Animal Proteins

Compared to plant proteins, animal proteins are higher in quality because of a better balance of essential amino acids.

FISH MEAL – Fish meal is made from dried and ground fish and fish by-products. It contains approximately 60% protein. Fish meal is occasionally used in poultry feeds but high cost tends to limit its usage. Too much fish meal in a poultry diet will result in the eggs and meat having a “fishy” flavor. Most of the fish meal available in the United States goes either into the aquaculture or pet food industries.

MEAT AND BONE MEAL – produced by cooking animal tissues and bones under steam pressure and then grinding them. This meal has a protein content of 50% to 60%., and is a common source of protein in poultry rations.

POULTRY BY-PRODUCT MEAL – This poultry by-product is very high in protein. The meal is made by rendering clean poultry carcass parts and grinding the product into a meal.


Baker, J. K. et al. Animal Health. Danville, IL: Interstate Printers & Publishers, Inc. 2000.

Gillespie, James R. Animal Nutrition and Feeding. Albany, NY: Delmar Thomson Learning. 1987.

Poultry Extension Publications. [On-line]. Available: [2012, October].

S. Leeson and J.D. Summers, Commercial Poultry Nutrition 3rd edition. University Books, P.O. Box 1326 Guelph, Ontario, Canada. 2005.

Poultry Research Feed Mill image complements of Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX. * Dr. Chris Bailey, Poultry Nutritionist, Department of Poultry Science, Texas A&M University, and Dr. Austin Cantor, Associate professor, University of Kentucky, researched and revised this topic. This topic was reviewed extensively by members of the National FFA Poultry Evaluation CDE Committee. Kirk C. Edney, Ph.D., Instructional Materials Service, Texas A&M University, refined, edited and formatted this topic. The background materials in this topic were initially developed by Larry Ermis, Curriculum Specialist (retired), Instructional Materials Service, Texas A&M University.

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