Materials that are currently fed to livestock and fish can be diverted to increase the amount of food available to humans.
Livestock and fish can eat more agricultural by-products to provide more food to people.
With millions of people around the world at risk of hunger and malnutrition, producing feed for livestock and fish is a limited resource that can be used to produce more food for humans.
New research from Aalto University, published today (September 19) in Nature Food, shows that adjusting livestock and fish diets sustains production and makes more food available to humans.
These relatively simple changes could significantly increase the world’s food supply and provide calories to up to 13% more people. Moreover, it does so without the need for increased consumption of natural resources or significant dietary changes.
About a third of grain production is currently used for animal feed, and about a quarter of fish caught is not used for human feed. Matti Kummu, associate professor of global water and nutrition issues at Aalto University, says that using crop residues and food by-products in livestock and aquaculture production can unlock human-useful materials to feed people.
“This is the first time that we have mapped and integrated food and feed streams at this level of detail from both terrestrial and aquatic systems around the world. This was the first step in determining the untapped potential.” Investigators analyzed the flow of food and feed, and their by-products and residues, through the global food production system. We then identified ways to turn these tides for better results. For example, livestock and farmed fish can be fed food system by-products such as sugar beets and citrus pulp, fish and livestock by-products, and even crop residues in place of materials suitable for human consumption.
These simple changes could divert up to 10-26% of total grain production and 17 million tons of fish (about 11% of the current seafood supply) from animal feed to human consumption. Depending on the exact scenario, the increase in food supply will be 6-13% in calorie content and 9-15% in protein content. “It may not sound like much, but this is food for up to a billion people,” said Vilma He Sundström, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University.
These findings are in good agreement with Kummu Group’s previous research on reducing food loss throughout the supply chain, from production, transportation and storage to consumer waste. “This study showed that cutting food loss and waste in half would increase food supply by about 12%. Combined with the use of by-products as animal feed, we get about a quarter more food,” he says.
Some changes, such as feeding livestock with crop residues, can reduce livestock productivity, and researchers have already explained this in their analysis. The human edible foods in use today are different from the foods people are accustomed to. For example, in the animal feed industry, different types of corn are used and some grains are of inferior quality.
However, while addressing these challenges can yield significant benefits, reaping these benefits will require supply chain adjustments. We need to reorganize our food system so that we can find livestock and aquaculture producers who want to feed us, and some by-products need to be processed before they can be used as animal feed,” Sandström said. say.
“I don’t think there is a serious problem with that. To some extent, what we are proposing has already been implemented in some areas, so there is no need to develop it from scratch. We just need to adapt our current system and expand the scope of these practices,” concludes Kummu.
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