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The search for alternative protein sources

The search for alternative protein sources

Growing ingredients for animal nutrition, is putting a heavy burden on the environment. However, surprising alternative protein sources are available as well. In the not too far away future, animals may find seaweed or maggots in their ration. Dr. Laura Star draws a picture of this new way of feeding animals. 

By Ad Bal

 It is a given fact that natural resources of plant-based protein for animal nutrition, are under severe pressure. To a large extent, feed ingredients, particularly soy originate from cropland in former rainforest areas like the Amazon in Brazil. Such forests keep disappearing rapidly and the soil is being exhausted.

“We shouldn’t keep our eyes closed for this inconvenient reality, but switch to a sustainable solution instead”, says Dr. Laura Star, lecturer ‘precision feeding and sustainable poultry farming’ at the Aeres University of Applied Sciences in Dronten, The Netherlands. “And this is possible”, she adds.

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), people are eating more protein than they need, especially in wealthy regions1. Only in The Middle East and North Africa, consumption of protein from plant origin is above this standard. In all other regions, meat consumption is leading, particularly in North America, the EU and China. As a result, animals are raised for this purpose, contributing to further deforestation. In that context, compared to other species, beef, goat and lamb contribute by far the most to the carbon footprint, because of their inefficient feed conversion ratio (FCR). The most effective species in terms of FCR is chicken.

Lower protein content 
It is crystal clear that new solutions to tackle this “protein imbalance” problem should be found. “However, there are options”, says Laura Star. “To start with, it is possible to lower the protein content of animal feed by 1 percent and achieve the same output level. Consider what this means on a global scale. The immediate additional effect is lower excretion, thus caring for the environment as well”.

But alternatives to substitute soy from animal feed, should be searched for at the very same time. Full replacement of soy is not the answer, but substantial...

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