Interpretive Summary: Effects of diets containing psyllium seed husks on carcass composition, fatty acid profile, and cholesterol of rabbits.
By: Megan LaFollette
In April 2016, Journal of Animal Science published an abstract of a study investigating the effect of feeding diets containing psyllium seed husks on rabbits. Recently, there has been a resurgence in rabbit meat consumption in the United States. This could be attributed to an increase in interest in low fat diets, novel foods, and locally-produced foods. Therefore there is a need to investigate optimum production nutrition for rabbits. In other livestock species, psyllium seed husks are thought to be a beneficial nutritional fiber supplement that cleans digestive tracts, improves performance and feed efficiency, and lower production costs. However, these effects have not been researched in rabbits. This study’s objective was to determine the effects of diets with psyllium seed husks on rabbit carcass composition, fatty acid profile, and cholesterol.
In this study, 44 rabbits were sourced from 2 producers and harvested. These rabbits included both males and females that were in the fryer stage (2.3 ± 0.54 bodyweight) of the New Zealand breed. To analyze effects of diet, carcass measurements and longissimus muscle samples were taken.
Rabbits fed diets containing psyllium seed husks did have differences in carcass composition compared to rabbits fed control diets. Specifically, these rabbits had greater final bodyweight, hot carcass weight, cold carcass weight, and dressing percentages. Rabbits fed diets containing psyllium seed husks also had greater shear force values and a tendency for greater cholesterol content in the longissimus muscle. Finally, rabbits fed diets containing psyllium seed husks also experienced some changes in fatty acid profile including in saturated fatty acids (lower concentrations of C10:0, higher concentrations of C14:0), monounsaturated fatty acids (higher concentrations of C18:1t), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (higher concentrations of C20:4n-6, C22:5, and C22:6). However, total concentration of fatty acids, longissimus muscle color, and longissimus muscle cooking loss did not differ between rabbits fed the two diets.
Overall, this study demonstrates rabbit fryers fed diets containing psyllium seed husks had improved rabbit carcass composition (higher weights and dressing percentages), changed fatty acid profiles, and tended to have lower cholesterol. These results were seen in comparison to rabbits sourced and harvested at the same time that were not fed diets without psyllium seed husks. These results may support including psyllium seed husks in rabbit diets. This study won first place in the undergraduate poster competition I at the 2016 ASAS Midwestern Section/ADSA Midwest Branch Meeting in Des Moines, Iowa.