Sunflower seeds are used primarily for oil production. The meal remaining after oil extraction is a potential feed ingredient for inclusion in poultry diets. Sunflower meal has a relatively high protein content (17-21%) but is low in energy and deficient in lysine, limiting its use. The oil can be removed from the seeds by either a solvent extraction method or by using mechanical pressure. Solvent extracted sunflower seed meal cannot be used in certified organic feeds. The oil must be removed with mechanical extraction.
It is also possible to include whole sunflower seeds in poultry diets. Research has shown that whole sunflower seeds can be included at up to 30% of layer diets with no adverse affects on hen performance. Hens fed diets containing sunflower seeds, however, give eggs with a significantly reduced color score (i.e., they look pale) and a significant rise in yolk cholesterol content.
When the seeds are ground, they can be included in broiler diets up to 50%.