As you might expect, the processes of the meat industry generate a lot of wasted by-products. But just because those leftovers may not be something you can throw directly onto the grill, they're still full of proteins and lipids that we can use. Previously, though, it was too energy-intensive to extract those proteins and lipids and convert them into a usable form. But thanks to the EU-funded PROSPARE project, we may be able to tap into that unused potential after all.
Right now, up to 50% of the animal weight the meat industry processes is considered “leftovers.” Roughly 22% is typically converted into feed, and 3% is consumed as food, but they usually compost or incinerate the majority of it, even though it's full of proteins and lipids. But past attempts to extract those proteins were expensive and created products offering poor digestibility and nutrient properties and a low commercial value.
But now, by using a process of enzymes, researchers are finding ways to turn poultry leftovers into proteins called functional animal proteins hydrolysates. These aren't the existing protein hydrolysates you'll see today in eggs, buttermilk, or fish. Instead, they have a higher content of nutritionally useful amino acids. That means we'll see them in supplements for sports diets aiming to build up muscle tissue or as additives in processed foods. At this point, researchers have demonstrated some of their prebiotic, antimicrobiotic, antioxidant, and hypotensive properties in lab tests.
A Belgian company called PROLIVER is now testing this technology, hoping to enhance the nutritional qualities of the protein hydrolysates it already sells in dietary and sports food supplements. One of their partners, Mobitek-M, even plans to include these products in ice cream! They believe they'll be able to transform animal protein at a capacity of one hundred tonnes per day.
Says Vegard Segtnan, senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fishery and Aquaculture Nofima, "I think in Europe, the most important part of such an approach is to reduce the impact of the [food] production on the environment." Plus, he believes that these specialized protein products will be easily assimilated by the body, making them ideal for sick people and the elderly.
I have mixed thoughts about this. Technology like this is a great way to use resources fully rather than generating waste and ignoring it. And these proteins may prove to be useful supplements for people who need easier ways to absorb protein. It also could provide starving people in Third World countries with needed protein. They don't have many other options. We do.
I personally wouldn't eat foods made with protein hydrolysates if I ate meat, which I don't. And now I'll have to make sure these hydrolysates aren't in the foods I buy. At a time when GMOs are in the news, it's important to be aware of foods modified with animal protein waste products. I encourage you to avoid them until we know more.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
"Making ice-cream more nutritious with meat left-overs." ScienceDaily, May 20, 2013.