ABOVE: New research may help egg farmers further reduce their environmental impact through the diet formulations they feed their hens.
With one of the lowest carbon footprints of any animal protein, Australian consumers can already feel good about buying and eating eggs.
New research into the nutritional strategies of layer hens conducted by the University of Queensland and funded by Australian Eggs may now help egg farmers across the country further reduce their environmental impact through the diet formulations they feed their hens.
An extensive carbon assessment of the egg industry, conducted in 2021, identified that the highest contributor of carbon to the supply chain is the feed hens eat.
In particular, soybean meal – which is used to provide hens with required protein – has a relatively high carbon footprint as it has increasingly been sourced from South America and shipped to Australia.
The exploration of feed alternatives became one of the best opportunities for carbon reduction, prompting Australian Eggs to invest in research into alternative ingredients that promoted sustainable production for laying hens and pig diets.
Now at the conclusion of this research, insect meal such as black soldier fly larvae, canola meal and lupins have been identified as the most viable alternatives to soy in the layer hen diet.
It is understood that insect meal is one of the most promising alternate protein sources for addressing the global protein meal production challenge, due to its high nutrient value and low environmental impact for cultivation.
Black soldier fly technology is growing and already being explored in the Australian egg industry through research into its use in waste management solutions.
Australian Eggs managing director Rowan McMonnies said, “Every day, the Australian egg industry is working hard on producing more sustainable eggs, with lower carbon footprint, being highly nutritious and to the best welfare standards.”
“This research will help take the next step to encourage on-farm adoption of alternate proteins and carbon-reduction pathways,” he said.
Dr Elham Assadi Soumeh is a senior lecturer in animal science and production at the University of Queensland and was responsible for conducting the research for the egg layer and pig diets.
Of the research, Dr Soumeh said, “It is clear that sourcing quality and sustainable feed ingredients at acceptable prices has become the major challenge for the industry.”
“Finding alternatives that are lower carbon solutions seemed difficult in the early stages, but it is pleasing to see there are some viable options to start further exploring.”
Alltech Lienert senior nutritionist Tina Grech specialises in poultry nutrition and management.
On nutrition, she said, “The diets of animals involved in food production are extremely sophisticated and many people outside of the industry are surprised by how much science is involved.”
“If the alternative feed ingredients identified in this research can provide Aussie farmers with a nutritious and more sustainable way to feed their animals, that’s a win for the environment, the community and primary industry,” Ms Grech said.
To learn more about Australian Egg’s environmental sustainability and other research projects, visit australianeggs.org.au/what-we-do/leading-research