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Can piglets eat trees?

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    Håkon Sparre

Our research has recently demonstrated that salmon thrives on a feed with proteins derived from trees. How will small pigs react?

Can piglets eat trees?

NMBU researcher Adrijana Skugor.

Photo
Liv R.Bjergene
 

Yeast grown on sugars from tree biomass has proven to be a sustainable protein source in fish diets. Salmon is a sensitive picky eater. Previous trials with salmon showed positive effects of yeast on both appetite and growth as well as health. Researchers are now curious to see if the same positive effects can be found in pigs.

First study on piglets

 At the university farm, Ås gård, 48 piglets are ready to be fed diets with yeast derived from Norwegian tree biomass. Three different experimental diets have been produced, with a yeast level replacing 10, 20 and 40 percent of the protein from the protein-rich feed ingredients.

“This is a dose-response study, where the piglets will be fed increasing levels of proteins from yeast. In addition, we will have one control group”, Foods of Norway researcher Adrijana Skugor explains.

She is looking forward to see the results.

“For us this is the first time we test such high amounts of yeast for piglets”. 

Global protein shortage

Three different experimental diets have been produced.

Photo
Liv R. Bjergene
 Shortage of proteins is a global challenge for food production. The aim of Foods of Norway is to develop and document the effects of novel feed resources from biomass such as yeast derived from spruce. If, however, novel feed products are to be commercialized for a range of farm animals, including pigs, thorough documentation is necessary.

Document health effects

Parameters that will be documented in this trial include feed intake and growth rate, as well as the effects on health where we investigate several organs, including gut, liver, lungs and spleen and blood.

 “We will look at the pigs’ microbiota to see how adding different levels of yeast affects bacterial communities in the gut. We know that yeast contains bioactive components that modulate the immune system. This experiment will help us study effects of feeding yeast on piglets' immunity and overall health", Skugor says.

Improved meat quality?

Yeast biomass contains high amounts of anti-oxidants.

“We will also examine whether yeast prevents rancidity of pork when stored under different conditions, as we are doing for salmon”, Skugor says.

So, if the piglets at Ås gård thrive on a diet with proteins from spruce trees, the good news for the consumer might be that the taste of the meat is improved.

 “By this spring, we will have the first results”, Skugor says.

See also NRK Dagsrevyen 07.03.2017: Dyrefôr av gran

Published 10. March 2017 - 13:43 - Updated 23. May 2017 - 19:09

Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)

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