Profit in turning animal waste into proteins, company says

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Protein Amino acid European union

More food makers could make an extra euro or two by converting
their waste animal products into proteins under a new consulting
programme launched by Alfa Laval.

The new programme could also help food makers meet the requirements laid down by the EU's animal by products (ABP) regulation, applicable since 1 May 2003.

Under the regulationfood makers are required to adopt expensive disposal techniques.

The 2003 regulation prohibits the disposal of animal by-products to landfill. Instead they must be treated at an approved rendering, incinerator, biogas or composting plant. Under strict hygienesafeguards the law allows animal by- products to be reprocessed into animal feed or for making ingredients for the food or pharmaceutical industries.

Most of the materials are converted into low value animal feed products says Jette Kristensen, a manager at Alfa Laval's oil and protein technology unit. He says the Sweden-based company'stechnology and network can help food companies turn these wastes into higher-value components such as functional proteins, flavour ingredients and essential amino acids.

Alfa Laval offers a line of machines capable of converting meat and fish into edible oils and proteins. Now the company is attempting to grow its market by making it easier for food processors toaccess a network of specialists, suppliers and buyers for their converted products.

"The process of refining leftovers into high-value products - and not least finding the right users of such products - is still rather unknown territory for the fish and meat processingindustries,"​ Kristensen stated. "They need access to expertise when it comes to finding suitable end-users, identifying their detailed raw material needs and designing the most efficientprocessing plants."

He says the new approach would allow food companies to create new business and increase profits by turning the relatively limited returns from the animal feeds market into products withconsiderably improved margins.

Functional proteins are used in the food industry for their capacity to bind water and fat, to act as emulsifiers, to form foam and gel, to alter viscosity level and to modify water solubility.

Flavour ingredients are used in practically all pre-prepared foods such as soups, sauces, stock, snacks and as a taste booster for convenience foods. Essential amino acids are used within thepharmaceutical industry in general and as food nutriceuticals.

Alfa Laval can provide links to researchers and other food specialists who have extensive know-how and practical experience of raw materials, products and processes, he said.

"Since they also enjoy good trust in the business, they are often a natural bridge between the suppliers and the buyers of proteins and can offer support in creating customizedspecifications for the end users for the efficient supply of high quality raw material,"​ Kristensen stated.

The company offers equipment for preparation, heating, clarification, solids separation, fractionation and evaporation of animal by-product materials.

He noted that Norway-based Marine Harvest, the world's largest producer of farmed salmon, has found a niche in producing new products from what other comanies would consider just by-products andleftovers.

"These include marine oils and ingredients for use in functional foods and pharmacueticals.

"Sufficient volume of raw material, efficient logistics and a versatile production set-up that can switch rapidly between different raw materials are all important success factors,"​says øistein Jakobsen, Marine Harvest's project manager. "Our future production set-up will differ considerably from the one we have today so that we will be able to move many products furtherup the value chain."

Ellco Food in Sweden, another happy Alfa Laval customer, currently uses raw materials from meat production for the development of ingredients for the food industry.

"It is highly important to select the right raw material source for high-value protein chains,"​ says Thomas Ahlgren, Ellco's managing director. "It has to be specific raw materialsfor specific applications. For example, the structure of each type of pig bone differs a lot, and the chains of proteins that we can extract from these bones also have different characteristics."

The EU-wide animal by-products directive went into force for all other EU members at the start of this year. The UK received a concession allowing its industry to continue the practice until 1January 2006.

The EU's ABP regulation was adopted in response to various food-borne crises, including BSE and foot-and-mouth diseases. The regulation not only prohibited the feeding of animal parts to livestockbut also laid down the health rules for the handling, processing, use and disposal of ABPs.

ABP's are a regular product of the livestock and food industries and include animals which die on farm, surplus or waste material from slaughterhouses, and a range of surplus or rejected foodstuffsand leftovers, whether cooked or uncooked.

The EU's food sector produces about 16 million tonnes of materials of animal origin not intended for human consumption, the bulk of which derive from healthy animals.

Some of these materials are then transformed in a variety of products used in animal feed, cosmetics, medicinal products, medical devices such as laboratory reagents, fertilisers, soil improver,oleo-chemical products, photographic paper coating.

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