Meat protein: Can supply match growing demand?

By Nathan Gray contact

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Meat protein: Can supply match growing demand?
As the global demand for meat protein rises, new and innovative ways to produce the necessary quantities will be required, say researchers.

Given recent and forthcoming rises in the global population, and average global income, the demand for animal protein will continue to grow even higher, say the international team of scientists, led by Dr Mike Boland of the Riddet Institute, New Zealand.

“The combined effects of population increase and increasing standards of living in developing countries are expected to create a high demand for animal-derived protein by 2050,”​ the team claims.

They argue that although continued growth in consumption and production of livestock products can be expected, future demand growth may be faster than some official projections indicate.

“We explore a range of initiatives that will help to close this gap,”​ they add, noting that their new studies propose three simultaneous changes that are needed to meet future animal-derived protein demand. “These are: shifting protein sources up the supply chain; use of plant-based substitutes or extenders for animal-derived protein foods; and use of novel sources for both animal and human nutrition.

Growing demand

“Globally, FAO [Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) projects total consumption of meat and dairy products to increase by 102% and 82% respectively between 2000 and 2050. This translates to an additional 233m tonnes of meat and 466m tonnes of milk. But the projected consumption growth rates are even faster for the developing countries as a whole, being 164% and 172%, respectively,”​ note Boland and his colleagues.

Over the shorter time horizon to 2019, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and FAO expect consumption growth in developing countries to continue to outstrip that in OECD countries, they say.

“In response to the projected demand growth, production of meat and dairy products in the developing world is projected to increase substantially by 2050."

Increasing supply

The team looked at different options to aid the required increase in protein supply, including improving the efficiency of protein production in animals via dietary modifications.

“An important contribution to future protein nutrition of man and animals will have to come from novel proteins, i.e. proteins that are not currently used as animal feed, and proteins that are currently used as animal feed modified and improved for human consumption,”​ say the researchers.

“Likely sources include co-products from the biofuel and vegetable oil industries (currently used in animal feeds, but often inefficiently) and the food ingredients industry, as well as totally new sources of protein, such as from plants, algae and insects. Prototype products from some of these exist today, but these are still in their infancy.”

They add that optimising the quality of animal protein is also an “important means of improving animal production efficiency as it enables the equivalent animal production using diets that contain less protein”.

“This is particularly relevant for intensively farmed animals as they compete with humans for many of the same protein sources,”​ One possible solution would be to increase the quality of animal feed by supplementation with synthetic amino acids such as lysine, threonine, methionine and tryptophan, they note.

Another important, and ‘often forgotten’ resource for protein is food waste. “Food waste, depending on quality, can be used for human consumption (distribution to the poor) or as animal feed,” ​they say. 'Waste' occurs at different points in the food supply chain including harvesting, processing, marketing, and post-consumption and could be utilised as a source of protein or other ingredients for the production of foods or livestock, they add.

Meeting requirements

Boland and his colleagues outline a range of possible approaches to meeting humankind’s future requirements for animal-derived protein. “This begs the question of which of these approaches is likely to be most successful and which will be needed to meet future needs.

“While attempts have been made by ourselves and others to estimate the potential of some of these approaches, available data are too sparse to make any estimate that inspires confidence.

“It is likely that future animal protein needs will only be met by a combination of all the approaches … and a reduction in animal protein consumption.”

Source: Trends in Food Science & Technology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2012.07.002
“The future supply of animal-derived protein for human consumption”
Authors: M.J. Boland, A.N. Rae, J.M. Vereijken, M.P.M. Meuwissen, A.R.H. Fischer, et al

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1 comment

long explored path

Posted by Skip Cockerum,

My research into this problem dates from 1975 and the current results are available at www.insecta.biz

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