Denmark seeks alternatives to imported soybean meal

Researchers are making progress in growing grasses and legumes as a protein that could replace imported soybean meal

Grass has great potential as a protein “crop” to reduce the reliance of pig and poultry farmers in Denmark on imported soybean meal. That is the conclusion of a new research collaboration between DLF-Trifolium and BioValue, according to a report in FoodCulture from the Danish organization Landbrug & Fødevarer (Agriculture and Food).

Making better use of grass from permanent pasture in Denmark could reduce imports of soy proteins, saving farmers money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the theory goes. Compared with corn, for example, land sown to grass does not require plowing and needs less fertilizer, thus reducing the risk of nutrients leaching into rivers and streams.

While grass is already the natural feed for ruminants, the proteins it contains would form the basis of a good supplement for chicken and pig feeds, according to Thomas Didion, Senior Scientist at DLF-Trifolium. His organization and the Danish research platform, BioValue, are working together to identify and cultivate grass and clover varieties that have a higher and stable protein content. The ultimate aim of the project is to replace all the soy protein purchased from abroad.

The world's largest producer of grass and clover seed, DLF-Trifolium is already in the process of developing protein grass on its experimental fields at Stevns. Usually, it would take 12 to 15 years to bring a “super-grass” to the market, but collaboration with BioValue has brought expertise in DNA analysis that should speed up the process by identifying the genes that impact protein and fiber composition as well as disease resistance in the new grass varieties.

"Plants can be used much better than they are today,” said Jane Lindedam, platform manager of BioValue and of the University of Copenhagen. “They can be processed — as smarter animal feed — but also refined into high-value products in the field of bioenergy, food ingredients or chemical industry.”

New European guidelines for sourcing more sustainable soy for animal feeds

This month, the European Feed Manufacturers Association, FEFAC, published the first version of its Soy Sourcing Guidelinesto inform European feed producers who wish to source “responsible soy” – in other words, that which has been produced more sustainably from the environmental, social and economic points of view.

FEFAC says the Guidelines are intended as a reference and benchmark for national or individual company purchasing programs.