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The need to find alternative feeds to soybean
The market for soybeans has been steadily increasing due to declining production in recent crops. If demand remains strong and productivity does not take off, this trend is likely to continue. A high price of feed, consequently implies a fallout on the final prices of meat and eggs. The difficult sustainability in terms of soil and water required for the cultivation of soybean make spirulina the ideal alternative, which could replace part of the classic feed currently used in poultry farms. Find out why in this article.
With such an uncertain soybean market worldwide, and increasingly frequent climatic factors negatively affecting harvests, it is necessary to identify new alternative, but equally nutrient-performing, forms of livelihood.
Poultry welfare on farms is important to market a quality product. Space, ventilation and temperature are influential factors, but the choice of feed with the right amount of nutrients is also important.
In the future, a substitute for classic feeds could be spirulina algae.
Characteristics of Spirulina
Although it is commonly referred to as algae or microalgae, Spirulina Platensis is a cyanobacterium that lives in warm, fresh water. This organism, is photoautotrophic, meaning it is capable of photosynthesis.
Spirulina contains a large amount of crude protein (up to 70% of its dry weight), and is a good source of calcium and phosphorus, useful for the bones and muscle tissue of poultry. Given its characteristics, research has shown that this cyanobacterium represents a promising alternative to soy and other feeds used in poultry farming.
Spirulina affects the color of meat and eggs
Due to the high amount of proteins and vitamins present in the food, studies have shown that the use of Spirulina in poultry feed enhances the natural color of meat and eggs.
For poultry intended for meat production, this advantage is very important. In fact, for consumers, the visual perception of the product is an important factor in the choice of purchase. Meat obtained from poultry fed with feed containing spirulina, has yellow/red tones, probably due to the carotenoids contained in the cyanobacterium.
In addition, spirulina feeding has been found to affect egg quality. Not only in terms of more intense yolk color, but also in terms of egg weight and volume. (The study was conducted on Silkie and White leghorn hens).
Quantity of spirulina in the feed
Levels of Spirulina Platensis inclusion in poultry feeds depend on the type of feed being substituted. Further scientific studies are needed to determine the ideal Spirulina ration for poultry. It is not possible to determine a precise amount of Spirulina to be incorporated into the feed, as the ration depends on the specific needs of the farm. However, it has been shown that replacing 10% soybean meal with Spirulina has no negative effects on the animal.
The cost of spirulina
The real problem with the use of spirulina in poultry feed, is its cost. As a matter of fact, besides being very difficult to find in commerce in large quantities, the selling price of Spirulina alga discourages breeders.
The major traders of this food are located in Asian countries. A kilogram of Spirulina for animal use has a selling price which varies from 10 to 30 dollars per kilogram. Importing large quantities of the feed into Europe is expensive, due to customs duties.
In February 2021, the average selling price of soybean was 475€/ ton, which has been steadily rising for about a year. You can check the market changes on Index Mundi.
Despite this drastic increase in soybean quotas, the price of spirulina should be around 35 / 40 cents/ kg. in order to be profitable on the market.
For this reason, it will be necessary to wait some more time before considering Spirulina as a valid alternative to the classical feed for poultry.
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