15 August 2008

Animal Proteins: Which is Most Efficient?

We all know that it takes a lot more crop area to produce beef steak and ham for human food, than it would to produce crops for humans directly. How do different animal protein foods compare in terms of efficiency?
Among major commercial species, poultry is the most efficient, with two kilograms of food making one kilogram of chicken, followed by three to five kilograms for hogs and then seven for sheep and seven to eight for cattle.

Among lesser species, rabbits are similar to poultry, as are fish with one to two kilograms of grain needed, which is more efficient than any land species, potentially making them a very attractive commodity investment. _source
If fish is the most efficient animal protein for human food, what would be a good high protein food to feed the fish? Neptune Industries Inc. believes that insect protein can become a most economical fish feed, easily produced using residual algae cake left over from biodiesel production. Neptune coincidentally raises fish in a unique, clean environment called an "Aqua-Sphere", and uses fish waste to grow algae for biodiesel. You can see the fascinating circle of resourcefulness: Insect protein to feed the fish --> Fish waste to feed the algae for biodiesel --> algae cake residue to feed the insects --> and so on.

Of course, you might ask why humans have to eat meat in the first place? Here is an interesting study relating to that question:
In the study led by Dr. Cheskin, and funded by the Mushroom Council, study participants were randomly chosen to receive either beef or mushroom lunch entrées over four days – lasagna, napoleon, sloppy Joe and chili. Subjects then switched entrées to consume the other ingredient (mushroom or beef) the following week.1

Energy (calorie) intakes were significantly higher during meat meals than mushroom meals, a difference that averaged 420 more calories and 30 more fat grams per day over the four-day test period. Subjects' ratings for palatability (meal appeal), appetite, satiation (after meal fullness) and satiety (general fullness) did not differ between groups.

"The most intriguing finding was that subjects seemed to accept mushrooms as a palatable and suitable culinary substitute for meat," said Dr. Cheskin. "They didn't compensate for the lower calorie mushroom meal by eating more food later in the day."

The preliminary findings of Cheskin's team follow findings from other initial data that suggested if men substituted a 4-ounce Portabella mushroom for a 4-ounce grilled hamburger every time they ate a grilled hamburger over the course of a year, and didn't change anything else, they could save more than 18,000 calories and nearly 3,000 grams of fat.3 That's the equivalent of 5.3 pounds or 30 sticks of butter. More research is needed to further understand mushrooms' role in weight management as a low-energy density food. _Eurekalert
Losing weight by eating well? Sounds good to me.

Update 15 August 08: The Speculist is throwing Kangaroo into the running for best protein, based upon environmental factors. Free range kangaroo may be a bit tough and gamey, but it should put a spring in your step! ;-)

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Blogger SwampWoman said...

"Efficiency" depends on what we're talking about. If we're talking about producing pounds of meat from pounds of grain, hogs and chickens are very efficient. However, the grain *can* be used to feed humans.

Ruminants, however, can turn grass and hay (and graze cornfields after harvest and eat silage) that human beings cannot, and turn non-food items grazed from less fertile land into food.

Friday, 15 August, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Hogs require 3 to 5 kg of feed for every kg of meat. Chickens only require 2kg feed per kg of meat. Fish require only 1 to 2 kg feed per kg of meat.

It is a relative question which might acquire greater importance should the human population of Earth ever outgrow farmers' ability to feed, as per Malthus.

Friday, 15 August, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

You would be quite surprised at at the remarkable feed conversion ratio of insects. This is especially true the larvae which are easily rendered into fat and protein fractions--and don't yet have much chitin.

Typical is 1.1 : 1.

Interested folks should look into the Soldier Fly.

JP Straley

Monday, 18 August, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Interesting point, j. Birds and other animals have been thriving on insects, insect larvae, and worms, for longer than humans have been around. Even bears like to make a feast of fat juicy grubs hiding under rocks and rotting logs.

The economics of using larvae for feed may prove quite workable.

Informed nutritionists rave over the nutritive value of larvae. I myself have eaten some tasty dishes incorporating insect larvae.

Monday, 18 August, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about fish farming?

Sunday, 16 November, 2008  
Blogger rdarwin said...

Aquaponics is an answer. Extremely efficient.

Monday, 30 March, 2009  

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