Will it Fly

Avian pro­teins could re­duce costs and help the in­dus­try grow but only if the mar­ket is ready

Fish Farmer - - Feed Workshop -

An in­dus­try and aca­demic part­ner­ship ex­plor­ing the use of avian pro­teins in salmon feed pre­sented the find­ings of its ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tions at a work­shop this month. The broader aim of the ini­tia­tive, launched last year, is to build re­silience into pro­tein sup­plies in Scot­land, which is rel­a­tively con­strained in its op­tions com­pared to other salmon pro­duc­ing coun­tries.

Lead­ing the sci­en­tific team, Brett Glen­cross, re­search di­rec­tor of Stir­ling’s In­sti­tute of Aqua­cul­ture, said the range of re­sources avail­able to the feed sec­tor in­cluded the old and re­li­able, such as ma­rine in­gre­di­ents, and the novel and some­times con­tentious.

The in­dus­try has long di­ver­si­fied from tra­di­tional di­ets, with ma­rine in­gre­di­ents drop­ping from 80 per cent to around 30 per cent in salmon di­ets over the past 10 to 20 years, and more re­cently, com­pletely fish-free feed has been de­vel­oped.

The prob­lem, said Glen­cross, is that the UK is heav­ily de­pen­dent on im­ported pro­tein- of the 270,000 tonnes of fish feed used in the UK each year 220,000 tonnes was from non-UK fish­eries sources.

Since most global feed com­modi­ties are traded in dol­lars, this makes the in­dus­try vul­ner­a­ble to ex­change rate uc­tu­a­tions, as wit­nessed with the pound’s plum­met a er the Brexit vote last June. Feed prices, al­ready the ma­jor op­er­a­tional cost for salmon farm­ers, are likely to rise as a re­sult of a weak ster­ling.

Draw­ing on his own back­ground in Aus­tralia, both as an aca­demic and in the feed com­pany Ri­d­leys, Glen­cross sug­gested the so­lu­tion was to pro­duce more pro­tein lo­cally.

In Aus­tralia, we would deal with this by mak­ing our own,’ he said, ex­plain­ing how Ri­d­leys bought the coun­try’s two big­gest ren­der­ing plants so they could con­trol the whole value chain.

Al­ter­na­tive pro­teins such as blood and feather meal are widely and openly used in Aus­tralia, and in North and South Amer­ica, but since the BSE scan­dal of the 90s in Bri­tain, there has been some­thing of a cul­tural shi and the use of an­i­mal prod­ucts in feed in much of Europe, although now le­gal, has been cur­tailed.

The work­shop, held in Dun­blane, near Stir­ling

Univer­sity on March 2, heard from sev­eral of the part­ners in­volved in the al­ter­na­tive pro­teins project.

Feed com­pany BioMar which joined forces with the re­tailer Mor­risons, the Univer­sity of Stir­ling, Saria, which pro­cesses an­i­mal by-prod­ucts, and the Scot­tish Aqua­cul­ture In­no­va­tion Cen­tre (SAIC) pointed out that the use of al­ter­na­tive raw ma­te­ri­als is re­stricted by sev­eral fac­tors, in­clud­ing a lim­ited sup­ply in some cases and per­ceived con­sumer ac­cep­tance.

Much of the day’s dis­cus­sions cen­tred around the lat­ter is­sue, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to avian pro­tein.

Karolina Kwasek, prod­uct de­vel­oper at BioMar, listed fish by-prod­ucts, GM plants, land an­i­mal pro­teins, in­sects and oo­plank­ton among the pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tive in­gre­di­ents for feed.

More use could be made of fish­ery by-prod­ucts, but fish­ing eets lack the lo­gis­tics and in­cen­tive to bring waste ashore. Fish farm­ing has a bet­ter record in util­is­ing trim­mings from pro­cess­ing.

The cur­rent fo­cus on in­sects as a feed in­gre­di­ent could see global pro­duc­tion in­crease, but pub­lic ac­cep­tance may be a prob­lem, de­spite the fact that in­sects are a nat­u­ral food for many fish species. A re­cent change in EU leg­is­la­tion re­moves some of the ob­sta­cles to the growth of this sec­tor.

With land an­i­mal pro­tein, such as poul­try, the leg­is­la­tion is al­ready in place for its use in fish feed, said Kwasek. Fur­ther­more, tests have shown that there is no dif­fer­ence in health or per­for­mance of farmed salmon when these raw ma­te­ri­als are in­tro­duced.

This is a safe and rich pro­tein source con­sid­er­able quan­ti­ties are avail­able; and it could re­duce our re­liance on im­ports of feed in­gre­di­ents. If we could use these as in­gre­di­ents, it could have an ef­fect on feed costs.’

First, though, con­sumer at­ti­tudes in the UK have to be tested and a dis­tinc­tion drawn be­tween the per­ceived risks of us­ing avian pro­tein and the real (if any) risks.

BioMar global R D man­ager Jor­gen Holm said the Danish based com­pany was rou­tinely us­ing an­i­mal pro­tein in trout feeds in Den­mark, so pub­lic per­cep­tions clearly dif­fer within Europe.

The big re­tail­ers are sen­si­tive, of course, to their cus­tomers’ opin­ions and although they make de­ci­sions on their be­half, they are weary of scare sto­ries in the main­stream press that may en­cour­age the ‘yuk’ fac­tor.

When the avian pro­tein project was first mooted, one news­pa­per re­port was head­lined Com­ing soon to a fish counter near you, the salmon that’s truly fowl.’

Ally Ding­wall, Sains­bury’s aqua­cul­ture and fish­eries man­ager, said the neg­a­tive press was a prob­lem and the more anti’ sto­ries there are, the more they will drive per­cep­tions over time, which could be hard to counter.

We can put as much in­for­ma­tion out there as pos­si­ble but un­less we di­rect con­sumers to it, it’s use­less,’ he said.

Stir­ling’s Dave Lit­tle pre­sented the re­sults of a con­sumer sur­vey to gauge per­spec­tives on two al­ter­na­tive pro­tein sources Ca­lysta’s high tech bac­te­rial based feed de­rived from meth­ane gas, and poul­try by-prod­ucts.

More than 200 salmon con­sumers were shown the above news­pa­per head­line and also a video of Ca­lysta’s pro­duc­tion process and then asked if they would eat salmon fed with both al­ter­na­tives.

A ma­jor­ity said they would eat the Ca­lysta fed fish, agree­ing the method was en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able in that it helps pro­tect wild fish stocks. A large group said they wanted more in­for­ma­tion, how­ever.

With poul­try by-prod­ucts, there were fewer in favour than for Ca­lysta but, said Lit­tle, a ma­jor­ity – 58 per cent – said they would eat salmon fed with this pro­tein.

The con­clu­sion, at least from this small study, was that the pub­lic is not against al­ter­na­tive in­gre­di­ents in prin­ci­ple. The sur­vey also found that the coun­try of prove­nance – Scot­land in this case- was more im­por­tant to con­sumers than what the fish were fed, and that pre­sen­ta­tion is cru­cial, as is fish wel­fare.

In­ter­est­ingly, no one men­tioned BSE, and nor was there any talk of the healthy omega-3 prop­er­ties of farmed salmon, said Lit­tle.

‘I don’t think con­sumers are link­ing this [pro­tein] at all with is­sues in the food chain de­spite hav­ing read the largely neg­a­tive press.’

For those tiny pro­por­tion of con­sumers who do have con­cerns, there is a case for mak­ing more in­for­ma­tion avail­able, but who would be most trusted to give that in­for­ma­tion

The next step would be to con­duct a more in­depth con­sumer sur­vey but, Lit­tle be­lieves, we are push­ing at an open door’.

‘The fact that they [avian pro­teins] are in reg­u­lar use in the rest of the world with no ad­verse ef­fects is a good sell­ing point.’

How­ever, there was scep­ti­cism, not just from the re­tail sec­tor, but also from some feed man­u­fac­tur­ers.

iv Cramp­ton, prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist at Ewos, now part of Cargill, de­fended the wide­spread use of soy pro­tein con­cen­trate in salmon feed.

‘Well sourced plant pro­teins are very high qual­ity if you know which ones to choose. Any other al­ter­na­tive raw ma­te­rial has to com­pete with these very good plant in­gre­di­ents,’ he said, cit­ing Ewos re­search that showed it was eas­ier to pro­duce fish free feed with just plants than with land an­i­mals.

Ally Ding­wall said there was a ques­tion of pri­ori­ti­sa­tion in tack­ling the avian pro­tein is­sue above other fields of re­search.

But those in­volved in the project said they did not want this to be ‘an op­por­tu­nity for in­no­va­tion lost’ and would be look­ing at ways to move it along prefer­ably be­fore Brexit sees Euro­pean re­search funds dry­ing up.

The project team was due to con­vene the fol­low­ing morn­ing and re ect on progress so far.

Ideally, said Dave Lit­tle, avian pro­tein also needs to be put to the test in tri­als on a Scot­tish salmon farm. The de­bate goes on.

The fact that they are in reg­u­lar use in the rest of the world with no ad­verse ef­fects is a good sell­ing point”

Above: Pro­fes­sor Brett Glen­cross is lead­ing the sci­en­tific in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­ter­na­tive pro­tein sources

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