Will UK consumers come out for or against poultry protein in salmon feed?

By Lynda Searby

- Last updated on GMT

© istock/hors
© istock/hors

Related tags: Protein

The future of poultry proteins in salmon feed hinges on whether UK retailers and consumers are accepting of the idea, rather than any legal or commercial obstacles, says the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).

As previously reported​, BioMar, in partnership with UK retailer Morrisons, the University of Stirling and the SARIA group, are to evaluate the use of poultry derived protein for use in salmon feed, as part of an industry and academic funded initiative. 

The first phase of the initiative will be a six-month project, employing desk research and focus groups to determine retailer and public perceptions around the use of different raw materials in salmon feed, with an emphasis on avian proteins.

The majority of funding for this phase (£40,907 / $54,360) has been provided by SAIC, which views the use of poultry protein in salmon feed as a “sustainable practice”​ that would “boost the productivity of the aquaculture industry in Scotland”​. 

FeedNavigator is hosting a webinar on 6 October on the pros and cons of protein alternatives like insect meal, microalgae, and single cell bacteria for use in fish and poultry diets. You can REGISTER for the event here.​ 

Not when but “whether”

Avian proteins are already a reality in the salmon feed chain in other countries around the world.

“Presently avian proteins are used in feeds for other farmed fish species throughout continental Europe. Extent of use varies from country to country. Most of the major feed companies already have some track record of using avian protein meals in feeds for seabream, seabass, trout and other species - just not in the UK,”​ explained SAIC’s Robin Shields, the aquaculture innovation manager who will be responsible for overseeing the project.

However, Shields said that “when and whether” ​avian proteins are adopted here in the UK will depend, in part, on the outcome of the six-month consultative project.

“Retailer and consumer perceptions are potential barriers. Despite avian proteins having been deemed by other producer countries as being safe and of good quality in terms of meeting the nutritional needs of salmon, there is still work to be done here in the UK – starting with gauging public opinion. By supporting the six-month project, SAIC aims to help do exactly that. Rather than proceed straight to the technological components, we first want to identify whether retailers and consumers are accepting of the use of land-based animal proteins in fish feeds,” ​he told FeedNavigator.

Shields said that with no legal or commercial barriers, retailer and public perception was really the only potential obstacle to the introduction of poultry protein into salmon feed.

No legal or supply obstacles

“There are no legal obstacles. The use of avian proteins is permitted under EU regulation,” ​he confirmed.

Shields also told this publication that avian proteins are available in quantities that lend themselves to commercial scale production of farmed fish.

However, he pointed out that these proteins have still to be qualified for their suitability.

“In other words, they need to be verified as being fit for purpose for the UK market – a market which is renowned for its rigorous safety and quality standards,” ​he explained.

There are various assessments that avian proteins might be required to go through before being qualified as ‘suitable’, according to SAIC. These might include, but are not limited to: a risk assessment of pathogen transmission, assessment of impacts on fish quality and an assessment of variability in nutritional value to the fish.

WWF voices support

It also helps that environmental groups are not opposed to the practice.

Piers Hart, aquaculture policy officer for the WWF, told this publication: “Essentially, the use of poultry by-products in fish feeds is a sensible and sustainable way of utilizing otherwise waste materials, as long as it is done safely with appropriate processing and controls over quality. The production of feed ingredients for animals including fish, is a significant driver of environmental impacts such as land, use water use and greenhouse gas emissions, so the utilization of alternative feed ingredients from sustainable sources such as processed land animal proteins is a positive step forward.”

He did point out that whether it is acceptable to consumers and retailers was more problematic as there are a number of cultural and perception issues, but said that “from an environmental sustainability point of view it is sensible. The use of poultry meal in feeds is already common practice in many countries”.

Next phases

If consumer perceptions around avian proteins are found to be positive, the project will move into the next phases of nutritional and fish quality analysis.

“These would involve assessing the compositional quality and food safety aspects of the avian protein sources currently available here in the UK. Thereafter, the avian proteins can be trialed in fish feeds to gauge their nutritional value to farmed fish,”​ said Shields.

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