The impact of protein sources on the carbon footprint of feed is substantial. With the growing need to reduce the footprint, the focus of research is on decreasing the protein amount and finding alternative resources. SFR is one of the institutes offering this research and thus giving insights in the possible ways to alter feed formulation.
The worldwide need for protein sources for pig and poultry feed increases on a yearly basis. The main drivers are growth of the world population and increasing welfare of people. The main protein source that is currently used worldwide is soybean meal (SBM). Compound feed contains on average around 25 percent SBM (USDA 2017).
Within the EU, the use of imported soy (products) is under pressure from society, mainly because of discussions about deforestation in South America. Also, there is a growing interest to reduce the carbon footprint of animal production and to work towards a more circular agriculture.
Moreover, there is a trend to reduce the levels of crude protein in feed to reduce the excretion of nitrogen in the environment and to improve intestinal health. Because of these developments, there is a strong need to find solutions for this current and future scarcity in local protein sources. Possible directions for this are more efficient production and utilisation of available protein sources as well as finding alternative sources.
Worldwide SBM is the most used protein source (235 million tons, USDA 2018). The other main protein sources are rapeseed meal (RSM), sunflower meal (SFM), palm kernel meal (PKM) and some others, of which together 95 million tons were used in feed (USDA 2018). So, roughly two third of the protein in feed comes from SBM.
However, it should be realised that also cereals account for a substantial contribution of the protein supply in feed. For example, Martin (2014) calculated that within the EU wheat, barley and maize provide approximately 14.2 million tons of protein in feed. This is one million tons more than what was provided by soybean meal (13.2 million tonnes of protein).
In the past years, SFR has performed research with its stakeholders to contribute to a more sustainable way to produce meat, milk and eggs. A main subject is to increase the inclusion percentage of RSM, SFM and PKM in feeds for pigs and poultry. This is done by feeding experiments with different inclusion percentages.
Also, projects are running to decrease the level of Anti Nutritional Factors (ANF’s) by technological treatments. With lower levels of ANF’s, larger inclusion levels of alternative protein sources are possible. Together with partners, SFR investigates the application of enzymes, that break down cell wall fibres of feedstuffs, hereby increasing its digestibility.
Finally, digestibility trials are being performed to determine the digestibility of the main nutrients in (new) raw materials, which enable nutritionists for a more precise incorporation of protein sources in the feeds.
Examples of how SFR contributes to find solutions to the protein challenge:
• Project of feeding insect larvae to layer hens
• Digestibility trials with algae
• Project to replace soybean meal by rapeseed meal and sunflower meal in layer hen feed
• Project with enzymes to improve the digestibility of protein
• Project to lower the crude protein level in poultry and pig feed by adding single amino acids.