As our population continues to expand, we must find new proteins of the future to feed the animal population. Soy and fishmeal are two ingredients that are used currently for protein sources, as they offer both essential amino acids and protein. Recent studies have evaluated potential feed solutions, which could offer a sustainable option for our future population. Pigs and poultry are often used for this testing, as protein is critical for farm animals. Farmers are looking for alternate sources of protein as overfishing, greenhouse gas emissions, and deforestation are on the rise. Let’s take a look at some of the proteins of the future and how they will protect our planet moving forward.
Ideal Alternative Proteins of the Future
When it comes to selecting an alternative protein source, there are certain things to consider. As well as offering a high level of protein and essential amino acids, they must also have a minimal negative impact on the environment. In Northern Europe, the climatic conditions make it particularly challenging to obtain high-quality protein. Countries such as Denmark are experimenting with the use of animals such as mussels, sea stars, and insects to find protein sources for non-ruminating livestock.
Future Protein Options
When these raw materials are available locally in countries such as Denmark or coastal areas, these proteins of the future are a sustainable option for farmers. Sea stars plague mussel farms, which causes issues to the production process. In fact, they are often removed from sites due to the problems they cause, but this leaves us with an alternative protein source of the future. While mussels are often used for human consumption, we can also consider the ones that are rejected for size for animal feed. Mussels used to reduce eutrophication can also be used, creating a nutrient stream that flows back into the food chain.
While these water-based creatures are ideal for animals, when we move to the land, insects are one of the best resources for proteins of the future. As they can use waste materials, they are of great interest as a protein source. They also require minimal land for their production, but the substrate used for them may require some land. The mealworm is one of the top picks for proteins of the future. The main consideration when selecting proteins of the future is that the protein concentration and components match the amino acid profile required for the animal.
When it comes to using mussels as one of the proteins of the future, you’ll find that mussel meal from mussel meat has a 60-70% crude protein (CP) concentration. This is similar to that of fishmeal, making it a good substitution. It’s also easy to digest, and you’ll find that both finishing and broiler pigs perform well on this diet. For mussels to become a food source of the future, they need to be processed in the right manner. Mussel meat production is very costly due to the huge amount of energy and water used to remove the shells. On top of that, it needs to be filtered to ensure there are no shell particles to offer safe proteins of the future. The shells often contain salt and ash. Which can reduce the protein content in the long run.
Proteins of the Future – Fishmeal vs. Alternative Protein Sources
Comparing fishmeal and mussel meal is an area of study that’s gathered much interest in recent years. For this study, hens on commercial farms were used to test how strong their eggshells were after a change in diet. Mussel meal was able to offer the same strength of shell as fishmeal, and shell-reduced mussel meal enhanced the orange of the egg yolk. Omega-3 in the eggs was also increased due to the extra fatty acids in deshelled mussel meal. However, the egg weight was reduced by two grams on average, and the bird gained less weight. This was attributed to the high salt concentration in the mussel meal.
Next up, the sea star meal was tested against fish meal. It has a good amount of essential amino acids but is still a little lower than those in fishmeal. However, it was easily digested by pigs, in the same way, that mussel meal performed. The biggest concern concerning sea star meal is that it can contain over 50% ash, which is incredibly dangerous for the animals. One consideration is the season in which the sea stars are harvested. At the wrong time of year, the protein concentration decreases, and the ash content increases, so more research is needed if this is to be one of the proteins of the future. Growing pigs are deemed to increase in growth performance, which makes it a potential feed solution.
Finally, insect meal was also tested for poultry and pig nutrition. The protein concentration is affected by processing and rearing conditions and varies by insect. Insects are a very sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to the proteins currently used and are therefore considered to be the proteins of the future. The insect meal is a good substitute for soy meal because of its amino acid content. However, control of the production process is critical to the success of this option. Proteins of the future require farmers and producers to think outside of the box and perform endless testing to find alternative feed solutions. These are just a few of the best protein sources that are already tested, and sea star, mussel meal, and insect protein sources are likely to receive more attention and testing in upcoming years. With our population increasing and greater concerns about sustainability each year, we are excited to see where the proteins of the future come from in the next decades.