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The incredible, edible crayfish?

  • Story Highlights
  • CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh spent time with Nile fishermen in Egypt
  • Egypt is experiencing a crayfish invasion along the Nile River.
  • Crayfish have been a problem for fishermen, but now used in chicken feed
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By CNN Correspondent Alphonso Van Marsh
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(CNN) -- Ain Shams University Biologist Hebat Abdel Hadi is taking "waste not, want not" to a whole other level.

Alphonso Van Marsh discovered first hand how damaging the Nile crayfish can be.

She says crayfish carcasses the part of the crustacean that humans often throw away are for the birds.

As higher chicken feed costs push multi-national chicken firms like Pilgrim's Pride and Tyson's Food to report losses this year, Abdel Hadi says crayfish waste is an alternative source for the protein and minerals necessary to raise chickens.

Abdel Hadi earned her PhD exploring the use of crayfish as chicken feed. Her studies included comparing chickens fed with fish meal, with those raised on meal made with crayfish waste.

"The group of chickens [that we raised] on crayfish have stronger bones, have a higher optical density of meat. The color of the meat is better, the taste is better, it looks better," she says.

The crayfish carcass is largely shell and skeleton. Feed nutritionists say crayfish-sourced feed would therefore contain high percentages of calcium and minerals.

As a result, Abdel Hadi says, her experiments show that chickens raised on a crayfish feed diet lay more, stronger, higher-protein eggs.

But poultry nutrition experts warn that chicken farming is a complex science that involves multiple nutrition and energy needs.

"The challenge has to do more with genetics, and the right balance for this fast growing bird," says Martin Humphries, Feed Sales Director for an English specialist poultry feed supplier.

"Crayfish heads will have some meat in there for protein. Crayfish skeletons will have calcium and I'm sure there is a nutritional value but perhaps [feeding crayfish to chickens] is a leap too far for now," Humphries says.

Watch Eco Solutions

Watch Alphonso Van Marsh's report on the the Nile crayfish on Eco Solutions on CNN International and here online, on Monday August 18.

Egypt is experiencing a crayfish invasion along the Nile River. Scientists like Dr. Madgy Khalil, who also works at Ain Shams University, say there are unprecedented numbers of crayfish thriving in the Nile with no natural predator, from the Mediterranean Sea or from the south of Egypt.

The crayfish that have a penchant for clawing into fishermen's nets and eating their catch are causing problems for fishermen.

But are there enough crayfish to sustain a chicken feed industry?

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Andrew Kendall, a spokesman with the UK's largest feed manufacturer BOCM Pauls is unsure.

"Theoretically, it is possible to use crayfish remains, but they would be in such short supply it would not be a feasible solution. For manufacturers who make any kind any business on a large scale, there's not enough [crayfish] supply to be a viable business. However, it could be better for a niche market," he says.

All About Nature and the EnvironmentNile River

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