Incorporating plant and dairy wastes into feeds for broilers could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of poultry meat production, a major European Union project on sustainability in agriculture has revealed.
Food waste and losses between production and consumption represent squandered resources, according to Professor Montse Jorba Rafart in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation magazine.
The United Nations estimates that about one-third of all food produced globally for human consumption is wasted each year. This not only pushes up greenhouse gas emissions for overall food production, but it also represents huge wastage of precious natural resources, including water, land, energy, labor and capital. Making use of these waste materials as a partial replacement for soybean products may also reduce future deforestation in environmentally sensitive areas of the world.
Waste potential for monogastric feeds
Jorba is an expert in agri-food technology at the Leitat technology center in Spain, which was one of the partners in the NOSHAN project, which was set up in 2012 to research the potential of using wastes from the fruit, vegetable, grain and dairy sectors into feed ingredients for poultry and pigs.
NOSHAN researchers found that wastes from the processing of pumpkins, rapeseed, cheese and yogurt, barley, mushrooms and olives resulted in the most nutrient-dense materials with potential for monogastric feeds.
Based on this information, the project’s business partners are working on developing a commercial product, which could be available within two to three years.
Not only would such a product reduce wasted resources, it could also cut the environmental impact of chicken production, according to Jorba’s calculations.
“For every kilogram of broiler feed, carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 300 grams with a 10 percent NOSHAN mix diet,” he said. “Assuming 10 percent of total broiler feed can be switched to 10 percent NOSHAN mix, this means a total avoidance of 6.2 million tons of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere each year.”
Similar benefits are being forecast for the waste-based ingredient in feeds for pigs, and the researchers are now hoping to explore the use of the material for cattle, sheep and goats.
With around one-third of all farmland used to produce animal feeds, Jorba estimates that the widespread adoption of the NOSHAN mix could reduce natural farmland transformation by 30 percent, and agricultural land occupation by as much as 12 percent, assuming the effects in poultry are transferable to other species. These effects would help preserve carbon sinks, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The NOSHAN project was set up in 2012 with funding of EUR3 million (US$3.7 million). Led by Belgium and Germany, and with support from Spain, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Turkey, the project included partners representing a range of interests and expertise in agri-food production from commerce and research. As well as looking at the nutritional content of the waste products, the project members also considered safety and quality aspects, as well as practical issues covering the incorporation of the materials into animal feeds.
There has been much interest in the total or partial replacement of soy protein in poultry feeds. Within the past few weeks, it has been announced that a leading Finnish chicken company is replacing all soy-based protein with home-grown pulses, and researchers in Germany have found algal and insect proteins to be satisfactory substitutes for soybean meal in broiler diets.