Overfeeding any nutrient is problematic. In the case of protein, feed formulators concerned with reducing their reliance on expensive (often imported) protein ingredients, or with decreasing the nitrogen emissions of animal production, are increasingly looking to reduce their inclusion rates, and instead supplement amino acids – the building blocks of protein – to meet the animal’s nutritional needs in a targeted way.
The transformation is particularly exciting for Adisseo. The company sees in it a chance to put its expansive research expertise and its portfolio of amino acids, enzymes, and other feed additives, at the service of the animal nutrition industry, as it navigates this new feed formulation concept. Today, we hear from Yves Mercier, Scientific and Technical Support Global Manager, about the driving forces behind innovation in and adoption of low-protein feed formulations, and from Kun Xing, Global Business Director for Methionine, about the role that this and other factors are playing in the growth of methionine as a product and in Adisseo’s decision-making about its own production capacity.
[Feedinfo] Feed formulators around the world are increasingly interested in reducing their protein use. What are some of the nutritional challenges to low protein diets?
[Yves Mercier] All our knowledge in nutrition is based on what we call standard diets that historically did not pay much attention to protein level as long as it was present in sufficient amount to satisfy protein synthesis and other functions. More recently, however, the least-cost formulation system and standardized ileal digestible amino acids values for ingredients have made it possible to quickly identify the potential of crystalline amino acids, helping to decrease protein content and, consequently, feed prices.
Currently, more crystalline amino acids are available and are more affordable than ever, enabling a further reduction of crude protein content in feed. However, in poultry, only supplying essential crystalline amino acids means you cannot decrease crude protein beyond a certain limit. We think that new standards should be determined within so-called “low protein diet” strategies to unlock these limits. We should consider new nutrition standards with a holistic view to tackling the applied energy system, the essential to non-essential amino acids ratio and, maybe even question the concept of ideal amino acid profile in low protein diets. For instance, an increase in carbohydrate from cereals in low protein diets seems to alter the digestive dynamic and consequently the non-bound amino acids availability. Non-essential amino acids such as glycine and/or glutamine, which play some metabolic roles beyond building blocks for protein synthesis, must be carefully studied.
[Feedinfo] Can you tell me about the work Adisseo is involved in on the reduction of nitrogen excretion?
[Yves Mercier] Adisseo proposes different solutions to reduce nitrogen excretion through different modes of action. Increasing digestibility with enzymes application leads to a decrease of nitrogen excretion though improved digestibility. Using OH-Methionine as supplemental methionine source allows the recycling of part of the nitrogen from excess amino acids, leading to around 2% nitrogen reduction due to conversion into L-methionine. Improving gut health and hence limiting endogenous loss contributes also to this nitrogen excretion reduction.
Adisseo is also involved in supporting clients who voluntarily seek to decrease the protein content of their feed, and in helping establish new characterisation of feedstuffs. On this last topic, we are currently developing the Non-Digestible Nitrogenous Compounds concept (=NDNC) for ingredients (poster at ESPN, Rimini 2023). This helps to better evaluate the nitrogen excretion of a feed at the formulation level. Other subjects that will allow to improve continuously nitrogen excretion are in our innovation pipe.
[Feedinfo] Where else do you see interest in low protein feed formulation or in reducing nitrogen excretion from livestock production? Do you expect this to become a mainstream concern of feed formulators worldwide, or will it remain a concern principally for the most progressive operations?
[Yves Mercier] Looking at the number of publications and research teams addressing the subject, we can indeed consider it as one of top priorities in the academic domain. By meeting and discussing with customers, there is no doubt that decreasing dietary crude protein is a real topic of interest, one where many have clear objectives. The motivations can be different, and the reduction of nitrogen pollution is not always the first one. Feed price and/or protein source dependency are frequently the primary reasons of feed protein reduction in some countries, above nitrogen excretion. Moreover, there are additional benefits such as the reduction of water consumption, or the improvement of litter quality in poultry which leads to improvements in animal welfare and general sanitary conditions.
But we have also to point out that some countries still maintain a regulation imposing to feed millers a minimum crude protein level in feeds. Historically these regulations were supposed to guarantee the quality of the feed for the final users, but it is very clear that today, with a very easy access to crystalline amino acids in all countries, this kind of regulation is totally obsolete and represents a tremendous blocking point for the reduction of nitrogen pollution and competitiveness for these feed producers. At Adisseo, we believe that it is of utmost importance for those countries who have not yet revised their feed minimum protein content regulations to tackle this issue as soon as possible for both sustainability and competitiveness reasons!
[Feedinfo] Do you anticipate that solutions to the nutritional challenges of low protein feed formulations will remain a focus for Adisseo’s Research and innovation (R&I) teams? What are some of the most important questions in this area that still need further research?
[Yves Mercier] Adisseo is committed to feeding the planet in a sustainable way, meaning that this subject will remain one of our main focuses at R&I level. We recently adapted our way of working in the R&I team to favour interdisciplinary approaches around two main themes entitled: “Towards a world with limited protein & energy sources” and “Beyond protein & energy value, improve animal resilience and welfare”. These two pillars aim also to be clearly interconnected. This means that this subject will be addressed under a holistic approach by considering that feed changes will affect animal health, and in turn, animal health will affect nutritional needs.
Again, we think that the simplistic view of only balancing essential amino acids will not entirely solve the drawback of protein reduction and nitrogen excretion; this subject needs to consider several other aspects, including gut microbiome management and host response. Recent studies raise the fact that lowering protein in diet increases gut leakage, which could be related to some shift in the gut microbiome, redox balance changes, etc. For the moment, we cannot look at only one side of the topic and we need to stay open and question some well-established concepts that could be challenged according to new facts.
One high priority is our desire to improve our raw material knowledge, not only in terms of the nutrients these raw materials can supply but also in terms of any drawbacks, i.e., fiber type, NDNC, Anti Nutritional Factors, etc. This will help to better understand and determine the dietary inclusion rate based on objective data according to species, and better adapt nutritional recommendations to low protein diets, including redefined energy levels, minerals, essential and non-essential amino acids amounts and ratios, considering the microbiome impact and animal health. This subject is huge and requires wide external collaborations that are currently established with academic research groups.
[Feedinfo] In China, we have seen the government make noise about low protein diets over the last few years. To what extent have you observed this driving changes to feed additive use? What predictions do you have for this trend in coming years?
[Kun Xing] In recent years, China's farming industry has undergone a series of huge changes. The occurrence of African Swine Fever (ASF) has made every farmer aware of the importance of bioprevention. China's total ban on adding antibiotics to feed by 2020, as well as the government strategy you mentioned above, have profoundly contributed to the development of the farming industry. China's headline companies have been growing very fast, which has brought an increase in the level of formulations across the industry and a raised concern about cost reduction and efficiency.
Formulators are looking for an economic balance between the use of crystalline amino acids and the reduction of soybean meal, and more and more amino acids are being used in feed formulations. Considering the price of crystalline amino acids (vs. soybean meal), low protein diets with higher amino acids contents are becoming more common now. China's official data illustrates this shift in protein sources, such as rapeseed meal and cotton meal, with their growth in 2022: +11.5 % yoy. This will inevitably lead to an increase in enzyme dosage as well as amino acid dosage. The continued growth of amino acid usage will be a long-lasting trend, driven by high raw material prices and low farming profits on top of the policy from the government.
[Feedinfo] Beyond China, where else do you see room for considerable increases in methionine consumption? What is Adisseo doing to focus its attention and resources on these regions?
[Kun Xing] All countries or regions where meat consumption keeps growing considerably, such as Asia-Pacific, India, the Middle East, and Africa, are definitely markets showing higher increase of methionine consumption. Methionine demand is driven largely by the poultry industry. Indeed, we are seeing a stable growth of poultry meat production and consumption all over the world despite some temporary Avian Influenza pandemic impacts. Adisseo is investing resources in all the regions where we are present in order to provide to our customers reliable products and good services.
[Feedinfo] Tell me about the new methionine plant in Nanjing (BANC 2) which has recently come online. By how much did it increase your total capacity at the site? Did you add any particular new capabilities, in order to improve the quality or economy of your products, that you want to highlight here?
[Kun Xing] This plant (BANC 2) brought us an additional 180KT capacity of liquid OH-methionine. Therefore, the total liquid OH-methionine production capacity of Adisseo’s Nanjing plant now reaches 350,000 tons per year, making the Nanjing plant the largest and most technically advanced liquid OH-methionine production platform in Adisseo, and even in the world. Its success strengthens our worldwide leading position of liquid OH-methionine and our global industrial footprint, which reinforces our capability to serve our customers in more efficient ways across the world.
Furthermore, a steam turbine will be in production in H2 2023. It will use steam coming from our different units to produce electricity, saving around 25% of the Nanjing site’s global energy consumption.
[Feedinfo] Are you concerned that global methionine production capacity might be growing faster than demand? Why or why not?
[Kun Xing] Before 2022, we have always experienced a consistent growth of the methionine market at 5-6% annually, which means the market would need a new unit of production of methionine every two years. Thanks to the continuous investment of Adisseo, we are able to participate in supporting the market growth and the customers’ needs. It is true that 2022 did not show the same level of growth, as a consequence of animal diseases and geopolitical conflicts. However, we consider this slower growth to be a temporary situation, and the market demand should recover and show consistent growth levels with the economic recovery in the coming years. We can already start to see this positive trend in 2023.
Moreover, as already discussed, trends including the increased interest in low protein diets and the industrialization of feed production will provide further critical boosts to methionine demand growth globally.
[Feedinfo] How have the market challenges and demand dynamics of recent times shaped Adisseo’s industrial or innovation strategies?
[Kun Xing] Having been on the market for over 30 years, the success of our liquid OH-methionine’s market penetration, and also the high appreciation of our products & services by our customers, gives us confidence in our strategy to keep investing in liquid OH-methionine. Having different and reliable platforms both in Europe and China supports us in our capability to serve our customers efficiently despite of all the challenges we have faced/are facing in recent times (COVID-19, geopolitical issues, etc).
Published in association with Adisseo