That's probably not a headline you ever expected to read, but a serendipitous experiment in Thailand shows positive results.
It all began when Ong-ard Panyachatiraksa, a farmer licensed to grow medicinal cannabis, was wondering what to do with the many excess leaves he was accumulating. Maybe, he thought, his brood of chickens could benefit from these leftovers.
Academics at Chiang Mai University were also curious. So they worked together to study the 1,000 chickens at Ong-ard’s organic farm to see how the animals responded when cannabis was mixed into their diet.
The first bit of good news is that initial results suggest that cannabis could help reduce farmers’ dependence on antibiotics, according to Chompunut Lumsangkul, an assistant professor at Chiang Mai University, who led the study.
The researchers observed the chickens to see what impact cannabis had on their growth, vulnerability to disease, and to see if their meat and eggs were different in quality, or if they contained cannabinoids. The animals were given the plant in varying intensities and in different forms – some were given water that had been boiled with cannabis leaves, while others ate feed that was mixed with crushed leaves.
No abnormal behaviour was observed in the chickens, Chompunut said: “At the level of intensity we gave them, it wouldn’t get the chickens high.”
The results are yet to be published but Chompunut has noted positive signs. Cannabis-supplemented chickens tended to experience fewer cases of avian bronchitis, and the quality of their meat – judged by the composition of protein, fat and moisture, as well as its tenderness – was also superior. Further research is now planned.