For scientists have discovered a poultry diet that includes an algae from the seaweed family, increases the amount of the brain-boosting fatty acid in the meat.
And it means children and picky eaters, who turn their noses up at omega 3-rich fish like sardines and pilchards, now have an option they will happily eat.
The nutrient has a series of health benefits, from helping brain development and protecting the immune system to warding off heart disease, and has even been said to reduce the risk of dementia.
Until now, oily fish like kippers and salmon have been the nation’s main source of omega 3 but fewer than one in 10 children are eating enough of the super seafood to meet health guidelines.
Figures show that fewer than a quarterof adults have the minimum daily requirement of one portion, leaving millions relying on fish oil supplements to make sure they don’t miss out.
In a ground-breaking move for the UK meat market, Waitrose is launching an innovative range of chicken high in omega 3.
The project, led by animal nutrition specialists Devenish Nutrition from Belfast, has taken 10 years to perfect and the seaweed style feed does not flavour the meat, Waitrose said.
Reared at Moy Park, Craigavon, Northern Ireland, the world’s first mass produced omega 3 chickens are pricier than a normal bird, costing £3.59 per kg compared with £2.31 per kg for a fresh, medium sized chicken and £2.43 for a large one.
But experts said that despite the price tag, the health boosting meat could “revolutionise” the nation’s diet.
Patrick Wall, Professor of Public Health, University College Dublin said: “This is actually going to revolutionise nutrition. The idea that you can make an everyday product healthier suggests you could have a huge impact on health.”
And Professor Chris Elliott, Pro Vice Chancellor, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, at Queen’s University Belfast added: “It’s costing £10 billion a year to deal with problems of heart disease in the UK. Having a source of omega 3 in our diet has the potential for healthier hearts.”
Results from early trials have found that in just five weeks, adults eating chicken fed on omega 3 algae have increased levels of the fatty acid which has had “measurable effects” on their health.
Initial tests were carried out on 30 healthy volunteers whose omega 3 levels were measured after one, three and five weeks of eating three servings per week of omega 3 enriched chicken meat. On average participants saw their levels of omega 3s increase by 12%, the research found.
Experts say Brits should have a daily intake of 250mg of omega 3 fatty acids as part of a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle.
It means eating around 200g of the omega 3 chicken meat, 137g of chicken wings, 139g of thighs or 223g of drumsticks.
Waitrose is launching 10 products from fresh, whole chickens and chicken breast fillets to chicken liver, wings and legs.
Waitrose nutritionist Dr Joanne Lunn said: “This chicken will make a really useful contribution to our customers’ omega 3 intake as we know it can be hard to consume enough omega 3 from other sources, especially if you are not a fan of fish.”