Chickens to benefit from biofuels bonanza

October 31, 2013

Chickens could be the unexpected beneficiaries of the growing biofuels industry, feeding on proteins retrieved from the fermenters used to brew bioethanol, thanks to research supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

It has long been known that the yeasty broth left over after bioethanol production is nutritious, but it has taken a collaboration between Nottingham Trent University and AB Agri, the agricultural division of Associated British Foods, to prove that Yeast Protein Concentrate (YPC) can be separated from the fibrous cereal matter.

The researchers have also shown that YPC may be a cost-competitive substitute for imported soya-based and similar high-value protein feeds currently used in the diets of bred for meat production.

The project was born out of the vision of biofuels pioneer Dr Pete Williams of AB Agri, who was convinced valuable material was being overlooked when cereals were fermented to make bioethanol.

With Dr Emily Burton of Nottingham Trent University, he was able to secure funding from the EPSRC for a CASE studentship that allowed them to develop and analyse the process.

To establish the nutritional value of the concentrate, EPSRC CASE student Dawn Scholey examined the composition of the newly isolated, patented YPC in a series of experiments, which showed that it can be readily digested by chickens. A paper outlining this research is published in this month's issue of the journal Food and Energy Security.

Project supervisor, Dr Burton says the work is only just beginning: "Bioethanol is already a 60-billion-litre per year global market but this project shows the fuel itself is only half the story – immense value lies within other co-product streams too. As well as the proteins, the yeast content provides important vitamins and other micronutrients."

Produced by distilling and fermenting wheat and other agricultural feedstocks, bioethanol has particular potential for use as a petrol substitute. Currently, the dried distiller's grains with solubles (DDGS) generated as a co-product are sold to the cattle-feed market but this is not big enough to absorb all material that would be generated if bioethanol production ramps up significantly in future.

Dr Burton believes the project helps address an issue often raised in connection with cereal-based biofuels: "One concern with bioethanol is the perception it will compete with food crops for limited farmland. Our new work shows how the two can live side by side."

The new, patented process separates DDGS into three fractions – fibre, a watery syrup and YPC, allowing global production of almost 3 million tonnes of supplementary high-quality protein per annum alongside current levels of bioethanol produced. A project at a US facility is now up and running, demonstrating the performance of the process at factory scale.

Every year, 800 million chickens are reared for in the UK and 48 billion worldwide. As well as helping to feed these birds, YPC could partially replace the fish meal used on commercial fish farms.

Dr Pete Williams of AB Agri, the industrial sponsor of the work, says: "We couldn't have got this development started without the EPSRC CASE studentship that allowed us to establish the proof of concept, and to confirm the value-creation potential of our innovative separation process. By helping us to move to the next key stage of development, it has brought closer the prospect of full-scale industrial use that could deliver major benefits to the emerging 'green' fuel sector."

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not rated yet Oct 31, 2013
I can see all these "unexpected beneficiaries" jumping up in their cages wild with joy at this wonderful new discovery.
1 / 5 (9) Oct 31, 2013
The key thing about this article is using more of the products we have causing less waste. Use crops to make ethanol. Ethanol production generates leftovers not useful to the ethanol process. Feed it to the chickens and maybe other livestock. We then eat eggs and meat from this livestock. It's a great path of usage. We get two products for the price of one. Since the biomass is a byproduct I would expect it to be cheaper than normal livestock feed.

We need to start using our own bodily waste to fertilize the soil to grow the crops we would produce ethanol and food for us. Some people may find this process distasteful but human feces is a great fertilizer. Waste water mixed in with urine and feces could fertilize crops and provide the water they require at same time. The sewage systems could be reworked to collect and redistribute instead of treatment and release.

The circle of life being used as a model for a circle of production means more efficiency, less waste, and lower cost.
not rated yet Oct 31, 2013
"Yeast Protein Concentrate" (aka yeast) is a superfood. Fine for chickens, great for people too. Someday someone will turn it into "Superman's Snack Bites" (builds bodies, shrinks waists!) and make a mint. But it looks like chickens are in some ways smarter than most people. Google torula.
1 / 5 (7) Nov 01, 2013
Without knowing the in's and out's of it - yeast is already used in many foods - smoked yeast for smoke flavoured foods. Vegemite, Marmite, etc., etc., are yeast extracts, used as spreads and flavouring in cooking.

Yeast is used as a food in it's own right.

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