Local company Kee Song Brothers Poultry has become the first in Southeast Asia to prove that chickens can be successfully reared on a large scale without using antibiotics.
To prove the success of the technology, Kee Song conducted a study over May to August last year and invited six international companies in the food, agricultural and pharmaceutical industries to take part in an experiment involving the breeding of 180,000 chickens in its Johor farm.
Results of the study showed that chickens which were bred using its own strains of lactobacillus - a good bacteria commonly used in the production of yoghurt and cheese - had a higher survival rate of 98 to 99 per cent compared to chickens fed with antibiotics, which had a survival rate of 95 per cent. The former were also less likely to suffer from diarrhoea.
Even though antibiotics are widely used by poultry farmers to yield plumper chickens that are more disease-resistant, research has shown that some bacteria or 'superbugs' in these chickens will develop resistance to antibiotics in the long run, said Dr Chia Tet Fatt, the scientist behind the technology.
The technology is jointly developed by Kee Song Brothers Poultry and Otemchi Biotechnologies, a local firm that specialises in lactobacillus technology.
"We wanted to fully eradicate the use of antibiotics not just to keep our chickens healthier but also to protect our workers who would be the first to get infected (if bacteria is present) as they are working in the farms," said Dr Chia, director of Otemchi Biotechnologies.
Kee Song is already selling chickens that are fed with lactobacillus on its website. Its cordyceps chickens are also exclusively sold at several supermarkets. These chickens are fed with cordycepin, which is derived from the cordyceps fungus and is known to have properties that can boost a person's immune system, according to traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.