According to a University of Georgia poultry specialist, if chickens eat a bit of charcoal it helps lower the amount of ammonia in their manure, which can lead to happier, healthier and more environmentally friendly chickens.Casey Ritz, a UGA Cooperative Extension poultry scientist, has been researching charcoal as an additive to poultry bedding to control ammonia levels in chicken houses for the past four years. It was working, but he thought charcoal might be able to do more from inside the chicken.“Our question was, ‘if we feed it to chickens, could we stop ammonia production before it hits the ground?’” he said. High levels of ammonia in litter can affect a chicken’s growth and performance.One group of chickens was given feed with charcoal added. Another group received normal feed without charcoal. Ritz and his colleagues then took the chicken manure and incubated it. They found a significant drop in the amount of ammonia in the manure of the chickens fed the charcoal compared to the chickens who ate regular feed, he said.The researchers were initially worried that the chickens might not eat feed with charcoal in it. Chicken feed is usually light brown. The charcoal turns it black. Fortunately, the color didn’t bother the chickens. And, thanks to the charcoal’s affect on manure color, the researchers knew without a doubt which chickens had charcoal in their diets.Charcoal is very porous, making it an excellent natural filter. It has no nutritional value for chickens, so it would only be filler in their feed. The scientists now want to see how much charcoal needs to be added to a chicken’s diet in order to be effective.“We want to have the biggest bang for the buck with added char,” Ritz said. Right now, he thinks that number is between 1 percent and 2 percent of poultry feed. He’ll conduct experiments in the next few months to figure final formulation. Better fertilizerChickens produce ammonia through their manure, also called litter. The nitrogen in the feed they eat is converted into uric acid in their intestines. When charcoal is used in the feed, the bacteria in the manure convert the uric acid into ammonium, not ammonia. This makes the litter less odorous or harmful, and can make it a better nitrogen fertilizer for crops, too.“Chicken litter is a great fertilizer,” Ritz said. “But if we can enhance it a little bit, we’d make it even better. Chicken litter, from a volume standpoint, is only about 3 percent nitrogen. If we could enhance it a couple of percentage points, it would be a big deal.”Air qualityAmmonia dissipates quickly into the air. The human nose detects ammonia between 5 and 50 parts per million. “We can’t even get 5 parts per million very far outside of a chicken house,” he said. In other words, unless someone is standing inside a poultry house, it isn’t the ammonia that sinks; it’s other odors. Ammonia is not on the list of the Environmental Protection Agency’s six top air pollutants. But lowering it can help overall air quality. “When it really comes down to it, we need to stop ammonia before it’s made instead of trying to mitigate it after it is emitted,” Ritz said. “I think this is one of the strategies that has a good chance of success.”Next stepsNext, Ritz and his colleagues want to make the charcoal feed additive affordable for poultry producers and find companies that will produce and sell it as a poultry additive. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture must approve the use of charcoal as a commercial poultry feed additive. The charcoal is already approved for human consumption, he said.
Sweden’s third largest pension provider AMF has been given official approval to market 12 of its products on the Premium Pension System’s (PPM) funds platform – the third firm to get the green light since it was overhauled last year.Of 13 funds AMF included in its application process for the PPM – the defined contribution section of its state pension system – one was rejected, the firm said.The AMF Corporate Bond fund was only launched in the autumn of 2018, giving it too short a fund history to qualify, AMF said.The PPM has now authorised three companies to offer a total of 20 funds on the PPM platform. Lannebo Fonder was the first to have its products approved this year, getting the go-ahead for seven funds on 15 February, followed by HealthInvest Partners with approval for its small and micro-cap offering a week later.Altogether, the Swedish Pensions Agency has received applications for inclusion on the platform from 70 companies representing 553 funds. A spokesman for the regulator said 269 funds were deregistered.Jonas Eliasson, chief executive of the SEK590bn (€56bn) pension fund’s AMF Fonder division, said: “It is gratifying that our funds have been selected for the new fund marketplace by the Swedish Pensions Agency. We will continue to manage the funds in the best way and keep the fund fees low.”The Swedish Pensions Agency introduced new rules for the PPM’s fund marketplace (fondtorget) in November, as the first step in a larger reform of the system. Private sector providers had to re-apply to continue offering their funds on the platform.The overhaul of the PPM was triggered by a spate of scandals over the past few years involving poor behaviour by asset managers. Prior to the new rules, the platform had more than 800 fund management firms offering products.Eliasson said AMF Fonder, which has been managing funds in the premium pension system since it began in the late 1990s, hoped the review and new requirements would lead to a safer funds marketplace.“It is about people’s livelihoods as pensioners, which requires responsible players,” he said.