Alternative protein supplies for petfood

Bosch, G.


The combination of a growing human population, increasing standards of living and urbanization in developing countries fuels global demand of protein sources for consumption by humans and animals. Increasing food production is, however, highly challenging as required resources such as land, water and fossil energy are limiting and the environmental impact of crop and livestock production already needs to be minimized. Various efforts are focused on changing the demand as well as on the production of proteins. Global food supplies can be increased by improving production efficiencies. Production of underperforming crop and livestock production systems can be improved through management and new technologies. In addition to increased production of conventional foods, alternative and sustainable foods are being developed. It is therefore clear that also the landscape of available ingredients for the petfood industry will change further the coming years. The additional alternative proteins can originate from biomass sources previously left as waste. Leaf proteins present in by-products from crops like sugar beet or from grass are already available in large volumes. Technologies are being developed that can extract these leaf proteins yielding colorless protein isolates for (pet)food applications. Various sources of organic waste can be converted by insects (e.g. black soldier fly larvae), which can be used as a high quality and sustainable protein source. Additionally, alternative proteins can also originate from ‘novel’ ways of production. Production systems of aquatic protein sources (microalgae, duckweed, seaweed) are rapidly advancing and do not compete for good agricultural land. These protein sources have a high water content, however, and require separation technologies that are still costly and energy consuming, therefore, requiring further development. Acceptability of vegetable proteins can be facilitated by transforming them into fibrous structural patterns of meat. In the long run, laboratory cultured meat using muscle stem cells may even replace meat from conventional livestock. These examples illustrate that there are multiple alternative protein supplies for future petfoods, although still considerable time is required to further develop the products and reach production volumes for large-scale applications. Furthermore, ingredients still require evaluations beyond chemical characterization including in vivo testing of nutritional and (dys)functional properties as well as safety attributes. Finally, acceptance of alternative ingredients by pet owners may be difficult in some areas of the world. However, awareness of owners regarding global food security continues to grow, which will facilitate the application of these ingredients in petfoods.