French methodological base
Several research groups in the UK, Austria and France have already worked on a methodology to scientifically assess competition for plant proteins between animals and humans.
Caroline de Kuiper, animal and animal feed expert at Ilvo: “In our profession, the calculation of the efficiency of crude protein is well known. Here we ask the question: How much protein do animals produce compared to the amount of protein they consume? However, farm animals may contain in their rations on plant proteins that can only be digested and plant proteins that can also be found in human food (directly or after processing). Calculating edible protein efficiency is an innovative approach that accurately accounts for the competition between animals and humans for edible protein.”
As part of this study, Ilvo determined, for the most common animal production systems in Belgium (pigs, laying hens, broilers, dairy cattle, and bovines), the amounts of edible proteins the animals use (based on food composition) and the amounts of edible proteins they produce (Total their production in the form of milk, eggs and meat). For intakes, the researchers worked based on the composition of the food. To determine the edible protein content of each of the different raw materials, they relied on a French study that had previously listed the percentages of human edible protein by animal feed components.
“Then, for each production system, we were able to determine the ratio between edible animal protein produced by humans and that consumed by animals, thus obtaining the efficiency of edible protein by animal species and by the feeding system.
The study covers only one aspect of sustainability. There are many other important and influencing factors such as gastro-intestinal emissions, land use, carbon sequestration, the value of manure… that must be taken into consideration in order to paint a more complete picture of sustainability.
The final results of this study constitute a rough estimate, in the sense that the final nutritional quality of the imported and exported proteins was not assessed. Nutritionists know, however, that plant and animal proteins are not exactly equivalent. Plant proteins have a limited amino acid profile for humans and sometimes contain antinutrients. Animal proteins (milk, eggs, meat) are more digestible and absorbable for humans and contain all the essential amino acids;
The edible protein content of wheat was taken into account in this study. The French study assumes that wheat has the quality of bread. However, wheat used for livestock feed does not meet this criterion. Catherine Doug: “We have added a nuance to the competitive nature of forage wheat. It is the forage wheat used, not bakers’ wheat, in the Belgian cattle feed rations. The food industry considers forage wheat to be unsuitable for human consumption. We have been asked to compute the following hypothesis: If you were to calculate the degree of Efficiency of edible protein with the edible protein content of forage wheat (ie, adapted laboratories with Belgium), what will happen?The efficiency of edible proteins seems to be 1.36 for fattening pigs, 0.96 for broilers and 1.30 for laying hens.Pigs and poultry then become net producers of edible protein. This is not the case for cattle, because grain does not play an important role in cattle rations”;
– “We made another calculation to include the factor ‘whey’. In the beef rations we use a by-product from the dairy sector, a source of animal protein and an important raw material for animal feed, which was not included in the list of vegetable protein raw materials in France (note: this The sub-product is called nutritional whey powder and skimmed milk powder, which are not used for human consumption).After this revision, the efficiency of edible protein for dairy cows in condensed corn rations, condensed grass rations and expanded rations increased to 1.26, 1.81 and 3.59 respectively, and the efficiency of cows to 1.72 and 1.09.
Maximizing the use of common products
For Katrien D’hooghe, this study confirms that the choice of raw materials and the enhancement of edible protein content strongly determine the edible protein yield of Belgian cattle. This reinforces our belief in the need to maximize the use of co-products from food and biofuel production. In this way, we double our efforts to realize a circular production system. After all, we cannot eat such products as beet pulp, liquor beans, etc. on our own. Currently, 43% of our raw materials are co-products of this type. By 2030, this number should be 50%. We also continue our search for alternative proteins, such as peas, beans and insects. By paying special attention to avoiding competition between proteins intended for animal feed and proteins intended for human consumption. For the first time we have a very clear picture! »