A French methodological basis
Several research groups in the UK, Austria and France have already worked on a methodology to scientifically evaluate the competition for plant proteins between animals and humans.
Carolien De Cuyper, feed and animal expert at Ilvo: “In our profession, calculating the efficiency of crude proteins is well known. Here we ask ourselves the following question: How much protein are produced by animals relative to the amount of protein they consume? However, farm animals can have both vegetable proteins that they can only digest, and vegetable proteins that can also be found in human foods (either directly or after processing) in their rations. Calculating the efficiency of edible proteins is an innovative approach that accurately calculates the competition between animals and humans for edible proteins. “
As part of this study, Ilvo determined the quantities of edible protein used by animals for the most common animal production systems in Belgium (pigs, laying hens, broilers, dairy cattle and beef cattle). (based on the composition of the food) and the quantities of edible proteins they produce (their total production in the form of milk, eggs and meat). Regarding the intakes, the researchers worked on the basis of 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 previously listed the percentages of edible protein for humans by ingredient in animal feed.
“Therefore, for each production system, we were able to determine the ratio between the edible animal proteins produced by man and those consumed by animals and thus obtain the efficiency of the edible proteins for animal species and per system of Power supply.
– The study covers only one aspect of sustainability. There are many other important and influential parameters such as enteric emissions, land use, carbon sequestration, manure value… which need to be taken into account to draw a more complete picture of livestock sustainability;
– the final results of this study are a rough estimate, in the sense that the final nutritional quality of the imported and exported proteins has not been assessed. Nutritionists know, however, that plant and animal proteins are not entirely 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 essential amino acids;
– the edible protein content of wheat was considered in depth in this study. The French study assumes the grain is of bakery quality. However, the grain used to feed livestock does not meet this standard. Katrien D’hooghe: “So we added a nuance to the competitive nature of fodder wheat. It is the fodder grain that is used, and not the baker’s grain, in the food rations of Belgian cattle. The food industry considers fodder wheat unsuitable for human consumption. Nous avons demandé de calculer l’hypothèse suivante: Si vous deviez calculer le score d’efficacité des protéines comestibles avec la teneur en protéines comestibles du blé fourrager (c’est-à-dire un coefficient adapté à la Belgique), que se passerait -he ? It appears that the efficiency of edible proteins is therefore 1.36 for fattening pigs, 0.96 for broilers and 1.30 for laying hens. Pigs and poultry are therefore net producers of edible protein. This is less true for livestock, because cereals do not play an important role in livestock rations ”;
– “We made another calculation to include the ‘whey’ factor. In the beef rations we use a dairy by-product, a source of animal protein and an important feed material for animal feed, which was not on the list of vegetable protein feedstock in France (note: this by-product is called food grade whey powder and skimmed milk powder, which are not used for human consumption.) After this review, the edible protein efficiency of dairy cattle in corn-intensive rations, grass-intensive rations and extensive rations increases to 1.26, 1.81 and 3.59 respectively, and that of beef cattle to 1. , 72 and 1.09.
Maximize the use of co-products
For Katrien D’hooghe, this study confirms that the choice of raw materials and the increase in edible protein content strongly determine the edible protein yield of Belgian cattle. This reinforces our belief that we need to maximize the use of co-products from food production and biofuels. In this way, we maximize our efforts to implement a circular production system. After all, we cannot eat products such as beet pulp, beer grains, etc. ourselves. Currently, 43% of our raw materials are co-products of this type. By 2030, this figure is expected to be 50%. We also continue our search for alternative proteins, such as peas, beans and insects. Paying particular 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! “