20 March 2019 – In some cases fishmeals are regarded as no longer essential, but they are expected to be niche high-value ingredients in the future. Looking at it from this angle, producers are presented with opportunities in “capitalising on the point-of-difference factors of fishmeals.” Such were the words of the University of Stirling’s Prof. Brett Glencross at the IFFO’s 58th Annual Conference late last year.

Touching base with Prof. Glencross, a professor of aquaculture nutrition at the Institute of Aquaculture, Feedinfo News Service sought to find out what he thinks the status of fishmeal usage is in animal diets today.

“It is possible to formulate diets for most aquaculture species now without reliance of fishmeals if you have to,” he said. “There have been commercial cases for shrimp, salmon, marine fish and so on where diets have been produced and successful used commercially with no fishmeal in the formulation. However, despite that it technically possible to do it, in most cases it still remains favourable to include fishmeal in many of the formulations as the costs of the additives required in the fishmeal-free diets is marginally more expensive presently.”

In his view, there is clearly a price-point now.

According to Prof. Glencross, fishmeal is not the main ingredient used by the global aquaculture industry and hasn’t been for some time.

“Just consider the math. Approximately 3 million tons of fishmeal are used in about 60 million tons of feed. That’s about 5% of the total ingredient use,” he estimated. “For some species (e.g. tilapia, carps) fishmeal is now virtually non-existent in formulations (≤1%). For other species, like salmon and shrimp there is some dichotomy among the market, with some regions providing fishmeal-free (FMF) diets as options for their customers, but others not even considering it. As for active use of FMF diets, there have been some farmers using them as a point of differentiation, but generally they have not had large-scale adoption because it is still more cost effective than to include some fishmeal in the diets.”

Having said that, Prof. Glencross believes the fishmeal industry needs to identify where it has value to distinguish from other marine feed ingredient products.

He explained that, though fishmeal has some variability in its various qualities, it has a high protein level, a good amino acid profile for use in animal feeds and a moderate amount of lipids, of which a substantial portion is the more biologically active form of phospholipids. Additionally, there is also a reasonable amount of omega-3 in the lipid as well as relatively high levels of nucleotides and taurine.

“The fishmeal industry needs to leverage these points-of-difference more as each of these facets has value,” Prof. Glencross commented.

He also hinted that fishmeal constitutes a renewable protein source which is available globally and with a range of options as raw material.

“I would suggest that any resource where you can return year-on-year for over 20+ years and continue to harvest 20 million tons of biomass can be considered sustainable. That’s not to say that we can’t improve things and the various industrial fisheries around the world have different degrees of independent certification. But collectively more than 50% of the industry is now certified as responsible fisheries,” he argued.

However in his opinion, there is clearly only a fixed volume of wild catch fishmeal available, and so the future will be in value-adding fishmeal to create new products and opportunities.

“We do have the potential to create new fishmeal into the future though through co-product development from aquaculture produce and I expect this will continue for some time to be one of the growing sectors within the broader fishmeal industry.”

“This is an exciting time for the fishmeal industry as I believe a new age of diversified product development is emerging,” he added.