Making the Best of a Pest: The Potential for Using Invasive Zebra Mussel (Dreissena Polymorpha) Biomass as a Supplement to Commercial Chicken Feed
Invasive non-native species frequently occur in very high densities. When such invaders present an economic or ecological nuisance, this biomass is typically removed and landfill is the most common destination, which is undesirable from both an economic and ecological perspective. The zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha, has invaded large parts of Europe and North America, and is routinely removed from raw water systems where it creates a biofouling nuisance. We investigated the suitability of dried, whole zebra mussels as a supplement to poultry feed, thus providing a more attractive end-use than disposal to landfill. Measurable outcomes were nutrient and energy composition analyses of the feeds and production parameters of the birds over a 14 day period. Zebra mussels were a palatable feed supplement for chickens. The mussel meal contained high levels of calcium (344.9 g kg−1), essential for egg shell formation, which was absorbed and retained easily by the birds. Compared with standard feed, a mussel-supplemented diet caused no significant effects on production parameters such as egg weight and feed conversion ratio during the study period. However, protein and energy levels in the zebra mussel feed were much lower than expected from the literature. In order for zebra mussels to be a viable long-term feed supplement for poultry, flesh would need to be separated from the shells in an economically viable way. If zebra mussels were to be used with the shells remaining, it seems that the resultant mussel meal would be more suitable as a calcium supplement.