Contribution of Feed-Use Amino Acids

A Progressive Approach to the Livestock Industry

Worldwide demand for meat has been rising for a number of years, particularly in developing countries led by China.
Consequently, demand for corn, wheat, and soybeans,1 which are primarily used in livestock feeds, is also increasing. In addition, demand for corn as a source of bio-fuel has been growing rapidly, with more and more arable land in the United States being designated for this crop. In this social context, the need for more effective utilization of food resources is growing day by day. 1. Soybean meal remaining after oil extraction is used as a protein-rich ingredient in feed

The essential role of amino acids for raising livestock

Generally, livestock feeds consist of a combination of energy sources such as corn and wheat, and protein sources such as soybean meal. Soybean meal is rich in lysine, an amino acid deficient in corn and wheat. However, due to the high price of soybean meal relative to grains such as corn and wheat, using more soybean meal to meet lysine requirements is generally regarded as uneconomical. Therefore, feed formulators are inclined to decrease the cost of feeds by slightly increasing the proportion of corn and wheat. This tends to create an insufficiency of lysine and an excess of the other nutrients, particularly other amino acids, resulting in adverse effects on livestock.
When animals utilize amino acids for body protein synthesis, their utilization is limited to the amount of the amino acid most deficient in the feed (the so-called limiting amino acid), regardless of the amount of the other amino acids. (This mechanism is explained by the barrel theory of amino acids.) Consequently, the surplus portion of the other amino acids is wasted. However, if lysine were supplemented in such feeds, more amino acids can be used, thereby potentially improving the growth of animals and the utilization efficiency of nutrients in feeds.

The best balance of amino acids based on the barrel theory

Advantages of adding lysine to feed

Unbalanced feeds negatively impact the environment

Feeds that lack a balance of amino acids are not only unhealthy for livestock, but also negatively impact the environment. Amino acids consumed in excess are not utilized as nutrients for animals, and are excreted as nitrogen compounds in manure. By simply replacing soybean meal with more corn and wheat in order to reduce feed cost, the shortage of lysine results in the other amino acids being wasted, causing the animals to excrete large amounts of nitrogen compounds.2 In recent years, nitrogen compounds contained in livestock excreta have been considered as a major factor that leads to environmental pollution, including pollution of soil and groundwater, and, consequentially, pollution of rivers and oceans. Accordingly, nitrogen compounds derived from livestock manure are now strictly regulated by laws in many countries.
2. Nitrogen compounds: The amino acids unutilized by livestock are excreted as urea nitrogen (uric acid bodies in poultry). Livestock producers have taken countermeasures by introducing wastewater treatment facilities. However, treatment capacities are generally insufficient for meeting requirements in areas where large-scale, intensive livestock farms are concentrated. Furthermore, nitrogen compounds generate ammonia, which causes offensive odors, and nitrous acid, which is a hazardous substance. Eventually these compounds can potentially acidify the surrounding soil and lead to pollution of groundwater and rivers.

Environmental impact of greenhouse gases produced by livestock

The greenhouse gas effect of N2O (dinitrogen monoxide) is about 300 times that of CO2. It is known that using well-balanced low-protein feeds fortified with amino acids can reduce the amount of nitrogen compounds in manure from pigs and chickens by about 20 to 30% compared to conventional feeds, without any negative influences on growth performance.
Accordingly, the generation of N2O can also be expected to decrease.

Realizing Stockbreeding that Reduces Environmental Impacts and Secures Food Resources

The Ajinomoto Group has developed its amino acid manufacturing technologies over many years. It has been producing and marketing feed-use amino acids since 1965, and now operates production and marketing bases in five countries. Combining natural feed ingredients with feed-use amino acids improves the amino acid balance in feeds, thereby considerably reducing wasted amino acids, which in turn reduces the amount of nitrogen compounds excreted in manure and helps diminish environmental pollution. Well-balanced feed also ensures that natural feed resources are not used excessively, enabling livestock products to be produced more efficiently. In the context of global food production, the rate of which is too low to support the rapidly increasing world population, the Ajinomoto Group is contributing to securing feed crops for the livestock industry and foods for human beings through its feed-use amino acids.

Helping Use Land Effectively

By using feed-use amino acids, the production area of land needed for feed-use crops can be reduced, contributing to the effective use of limited arable land. For example, if a portion of soybean meal in feed were replaced with a combination of corn and feed-use lysine, more land to produce more corn would be needed. However, since the yield of corn is about three times higher than that of soybeans, the land area needed to produce corn in the replaced portion would be much less than that for soybean meal. For the replaced portion, the required arable land would be reduced by approximately 70%. Taking a step further, if feed-use amino acids did not exist, the expansion of arable land for feed-use crops would have to be accelerated in order to support the increasing consumption of meat, possibly leading to environmental destruction such as deforestation.

Results of replacing 50 tons of soybean meal with corn and feed-use lysine

Combating Global Warming with Feed-Use Amino Acids

  • Corn and soybean meal are used with feed-use amino acids for livestock feed.

Feed-use amino acids are said to be effective for reducing emissions of nitrogen oxide (N2O), a major greenhouse gas that is emitted from the livestock industry. Ajinomoto Co., Inc. has been conducting tests with research institutes in Japan to demonstrate their benefits. The joint research has been attracting international attention, and was recently cited in a symposium at the Global Feed and Food Congress, an event held by the International Feed Industry Federation with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Livestock-derived N2O has also been gaining attention in many countries, primarily in Europe and North America, where researchers are attempting to calculate the carbon footprint3 of livestock products. The Ajinomoto Group is actively exchanging information with the researchers. The group is using scientific evidence to bolster worldwide recognition of its feed-use amino acid application with the aim of promoting it further. 3. Carbon footprint: Accumulated greenhouse gas emissions of a product calculated at the time of its release, and based on a lifecycle assessment from production through disposal.

Application to the Japan Verified Emission Reduction Scheme

The Japan Verified Emission Reduction (J-VER), 4 a carbon offset credit scheme for domestic offset trading, was announced by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment in November 2008. Ajinomoto Co., Inc. submitted its low-protein feed fortified with feed-use amino acids to the scheme for verification, and in July 2010, it was approved for J-VER certification as technology for reducing N2O emissions generated from pig farming. A large amount of N2O is emitted through agriculture in Japan, by material such as livestock excrement and fertilizers. It is the first case in Japan that N2O will be used as credit in emissions trading, which previously only dealt with CO2 for domestic emissions trading. Amino acid-fortified low-protein feed will become even more widely used in the livestock industry in the country, and this verification is expected to lead to a further reduction of greenhouse gases that originate from the livestock sector nation-wide.
4. J-VER: Under the carbon offset credit scheme, businesses—in this case, pig farms—can have their greenhouse gas reductions officially certified by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment as offset credits. Businesses can then trade the credits and earn a return.

Three kinds of feed-use amino acids

Lysine
The essential amino acid most likely to be deficient in livestock feeds

Threonine
The essential amino acid most likely to be deficient after lysine in commonly used livestock feeds

Tryptophan
An essential amino acid that tends to be deficient in piglet feeds, especially when primarily composed of corn