Biomass as a Novel Protein

Biomass as a Novel Protein Feed Resource for Broiler Chicken Production: A Sustainable Futuristic Approach

Dr. Dimpi Choudhury and Dr. Deben Sapcota
Junior Scientist, Zonal Livestock Research Station, Assam Agricultural University, Mandira
Professor & Head, College of Veterinary Science, Assam Agricultural University, Khanapara, Guwahati, Assam.

The global demand for poultry products, particularly broiler chicken meat, is on a continuous rise. To meet this demand while ensuring the sustainability and environmental responsibility is becoming a top priority for the poultry industry. In this context, the exploration of alternative protein sources, such as biomass, presents a compelling solution to address the challenges of modern broiler chicken production.

The Need for Sustainable Protein Sources

Traditional broiler chicken diets have long been dependent on well-established protein sources, with soybean meal and fishmeal leading the way. These conventional ingredients are known for their nutritional value and effectiveness in promoting healthy growth in broiler chickens. However, the continued reliance on these traditional protein sources has raised a host of environmental and economic concerns that are driving the poultry industry to explore more sustainable and cost-effective alternatives.

Given these concerns, the poultry industry is actively seeking sustainable and cost-effective protein alternatives to reduce its environmental impact and improve its economic resilience. Biomass, which includes a range of organic materials like agricultural residues, algae, and insect larvae, has emerged as a promising solution. These alternative protein sources can be produced more sustainably, with a lower carbon footprint, and offer more price stability. Additionally, they provide an opportunity to repurpose organic waste products, contributing to a circular and more environmentally responsible food system. While traditional protein sources like soybean meal and fishmeal have played a pivotal role in broiler chicken nutrition, their environmental and economic downsides are prompting the poultry industry to explore alternative, sustainable protein sources that can ensure the industry’s long-term viability.

Biomass: A Sustainable Alternative

Biomass refers to organic materials, typically of plant origin, that can be used to produce energy, chemicals, and, importantly, protein-rich animal feed. Various sources of biomass, including agricultural residues, algae, and insect larvae, can serve as promising protein alternatives for broiler chicken production. Utilizing biomass as a protein source reduces the ecological footprint of broiler production by mitigating deforestation and overfishing. Biomass can be produced with fewer resource inputs compared to conventional protein sources. This leads to cost savings and greater efficiency in broiler production. Depending on the source, biomass can offer a balanced amino acid profile, making it a viable protein source for broiler diets. Proper formulation is essential to ensure optimal growth and health.

Agricultural residues :  Agricultural residues, often overlooked and underutilized, hold immense promise as a sustainable source of dietary protein for broiler chickens. Residues such as corn stover, wheat straw, and rice husks, which are typically considered waste products after the main crop is harvested, can be transformed into high-quality animal feed through advanced processes like fermentation and enzymatic treatments. This transformation not only contributes to waste reduction but also provides a renewable and eco-friendly source of protein for poultry nutrition.

After the corn harvest, the leftover stalks, leaves, and cobs, collectively known as corn stover, are often left in the field or used minimally for purposes like mulching. This residue is rich in cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, which, with the right processing, can be converted into valuable protein-rich animal feed. Wheat straw, the stalks and chaff left behind after wheat grains are harvested, is another abundant agricultural residue. It is predominantly composed of cellulose and can be a valuable source of biomass for protein production. Rice husks, the outer layer of rice grains, are often discarded or used for low-value applications. However, they contain cellulose, hemicellulose, and silica and can be a valuable resource for producing protein-rich feed.

Conversion Processes:

Fermentation: The process of fermentation involves the use of microorganisms, such as bacteria (LAB, Azotobacter) or fungi (e.g. Aspergillus niger), to break down the complex carbohydrates present in agricultural residues into simpler, more digestible compounds. This not only enhances the nutritional value of the feed but also reduces the presence of anti-nutritional factors, making it safer and more efficient for broiler chickens to digest.

Enzymatic Treatments: Enzymatic treatments involve the application of specific enzymes (e.g. Cellulases, Proteases) to break down complex molecules into smaller, more bioavailable components. Enzymes can help extract proteins and nutrients from agricultural residues, making them more suitable for use in poultry diets.

By converting agricultural residues into high-protein animal feed, significantly reduce in agricultural waste and its associated environmental impact. This practice aligns with the principles of sustainability and circular agriculture. Utilizing agricultural residues as a protein source decreases the reliance on imported or environmentally costly protein alternatives. These residues are abundantly available locally, making them a sustainable and cost-effective option. Properly processed agricultural residues can offer a balanced amino acid profile and other essential nutrients, enhancing their suitability as a protein source in broiler chicken diets. The use of agricultural residues as protein sources reduces the pressure on ecosystems and resources associated with conventional protein production, such as soybean cultivation or fishmeal production.

Algae:  Algae, often seen as simple aquatic organisms, hold a remarkable potential to serve as a sustainable and eco-friendly source of protein for broiler chickens due to their rapid growth and ability to thrive in various environments. This alternative protein source presents several advantages, most notably its richness in protein and minimal environmental impact. Algae are naturally protein-rich organisms, and some varieties can contain up to 50-70% protein content (Phillips and William, 2011). This high protein content is well-suited for meeting the protein needs of broiler chickens, ensuring robust growth and health. One of the most compelling advantages of algae is their minimal environmental footprint. When compared to traditional protein sources like soybean or fishmeal, cultivating algae is a far more sustainable practice. Algae can be cultivated in a variety of aquatic environments, including ponds, tanks, and even wastewater treatment facilities.

This versatility minimizes the need for arable land, which is crucial in a world facing increasing land scarcity and competition for agricultural use. Algae are highly efficient at converting sunlight and nutrients into biomass. Their rapid growth and ability to absorb carbon dioxide make them valuable in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, improving water quality, and reducing nutrient runoff. Algae are known for their adaptability and capacity for rapid growth. They can thrive in various environmental conditions, whether freshwater, brackish water, or seawater. This adaptability means that algae can be cultivated locally, reducing the environmental costs associated with transportation and distribution. Moreover, algae can be grown year-round, allowing for a continuous and reliable protein source for broiler diets.

Algae are not just rich in protein; they also contain essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that are vital for the health and growth of broiler chickens. Their nutrient profile can be tailored to meet specific dietary requirements, making them a versatile and nutritionally balanced feed option.

While the potential of algae as a protein source for broiler diets is undeniable, there are still challenges to address. These include optimizing cultivation practices, ensuring consistent nutrient content, and developing cost-effective processing methods. Research and innovation are essential to fully unlock the potential of algae as a sustainable protein source.

Insect Larvae: Insects, particularly black soldier fly larvae, have risen to prominence as an attractive and sustainable protein source for broiler chickens. Their remarkable protein content, efficiency in converting organic waste into valuable nutrients, and overall ecological advantages has propelled them into the spotlight of the poultry industry.

One of the most compelling features of black soldier fly larvae and other insect species is their exceptionally high protein content. Black soldier fly larvae, for instance, can contain protein levels ranging from 40% to 60% or even higher. their last larval stage—the so-called prepupa has a high content of protein and fat, containing up to 47% crude protein and 35% ether extract on a dry matter basis (Marco et al. 2011) , making them a suitable feed ingredient for pigs, poultry, and also fish. BSF can convert 50% of the dry matter content of organic wastes into insect biomass rich in protein and fat content (42% and 35%, respectively) Sheppard et al. (1994). However, insect rearing farms should be operated under very controlled and healthy conditions. This protein content is not only substantial but also highly digestible and well-balanced in terms of essential amino acids, making it an ideal dietary component for broiler chickens to support their growth and health.

Black soldier fly larvae possess a remarkable capacity to convert organic waste materials into valuable nutrients. They are often dubbed “nature’s recyclers” because they can efficiently consume a wide range of organic matter, including agricultural residues, food scraps, and manure. This ability to up cycle organic waste not only reduces waste disposal problems but also transforms these materials into a valuable protein source. The cultivation of black soldier fly larvae and other insects is associated with minimal environmental impact, offering significant sustainability benefits. Insects require considerably less land, water, and feed compared to traditional protein sources like soybeans or fish. The environmental footprint of insect farming is substantially lower in terms of greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional livestock farming practices.

Insect-based proteins offer biosecurity advantages for broiler chicken production. The high-temperature processing typically used in insect meal production ensures the elimination of pathogens, reducing the risk of disease transmission to poultry. Marco et al. (2015) have shown that Tenebrio molitor and Hermetia illucens meals are excellent sources of AME for broilers and a valuable source of digestible.

While black soldier fly larvae and other insect proteins hold significant promise, several challenges need to be addressed. These include optimizing production processes, ensuring consistent nutrient content, and scaling up insect farming operations to meet the demand of the poultry industry. Regulatory and safety considerations are also essential as insect-based proteins become more prevalent in animal feed.

Challenges and Future Directions

While biomass holds great promise, challenges remain. Variability in biomass composition, nutrient digestibility, and the need for proper processing are among the issues to address. More research and investment are necessary to fine-tune biomass-based diets for broiler chickens and ensure their commercial viability.

In conclusion, biomass as a novel protein source for broiler chicken production presents a sustainable and environmentally responsible approach to meet the ever-increasing global demand for poultry products. By reducing reliance on traditional protein sources and fostering innovation in the poultry industry, biomass can play a pivotal role in creating a more sustainable and resilient food system for the future.


POULTRY PUNCH incorporated in 1984 and we are in poultry media since last 36 years and publish Poultry punch – English Monthly Magazine. Mr Balwant Singh Rana prior to laying the foundation of Poultry Punch magazine was still involved with renowned Indian poultry companies and It was there that he had the vision of doing something exceptional for the Indian poultry industry and then he stepped into the poultry media.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button