Soybean Meal Alternatives: 6 Sources of Protein

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Soymeal is a protein-rich food and one of the most common animal feed ingredients. It contains about 40% crude protein and 20% fat, making it a popular protein source for livestock diets. The soybean seeds are first separated from the hulls, then used to extract soybean oil. The soybean meal is then ground into flakes, flour, or a flour-like powder for use in animal feed and as a texture enhancer in soybean oil applications.

Soybean is among the most used and cultivated crops in the United States and has made US soil production one of the highest globally. However, as the world becomes more aware of the impact of soybean cultivation on the environment, finding alternative protein sources has become a topic of interest.

Find below six alternative soybean protein sources that you can use:

1. Palm Kernel Meal

Also known as Palm Kernel Expeller (PKE), it is a byproduct of the palm oil extraction process from palm fruit. It is currently gaining the attention of feed formulators and the livestock industry due to its low cost and high availability. Livestock farmers use PKM to partially substitute feed ingredients such as maize and soybean in livestock feeds.

Feed formulators have noted its high crude protein levels and average energy levels. According to research, using palm kernel meal resulted in reduced feed intake and consequently lower feed costs, but with no difference in growth performance compared with soybean meal.

2. Peanut Meal

Produced from roasted, shelled peanuts, peanut meal is another popular soybean alternative. It is an excellent source of protein, carbohydrates, and essential nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, thiamine, and pantothenic acid. The production process of a peanut meal entails grinding the roasted peanut with a small amount of oil.

Livestock feed makers and farmers typically mix it with other ingredients, such as corn, to create a balanced diet for livestock. Peanut cake processed farms can contain protein levels ranging from 42% to over 60%. Peanut meal is also widely marketed as an ingredient in pet food, especially commercial dog treats. It is also used in bird feed and as a dietary protein for cage-free egg layers.

3. Pulses

Pulses such as beans and peas are an excellent source of protein and a good substitute for soybean meal. They provide essential amino acids and essential fatty acids (EFAs). These nutrients help keep your animals healthy and improve their performance by enhancing their immune system. It may also help them grow faster, gain muscle mass, and gain weight more quickly.

Pulses also contain many other beneficial nutrients such as fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. They help improve your animals’ overall health and performance by providing them with the necessary energy sources to survive.

There are several types of pulses available today, including white beans (such as chickpeas), green beans (such as fava beans), and red beans (such as kidney beans).

4. Oilseeds Meal

Oilseeds like canola, sunflower, and cotton seeds have a high energy density that can be converted into protein. They also have high-quality protein with a balanced amino acid profile and other nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and zinc.

Including oilseed meals in the feed may help improve performance and reduce the incidence of stress-related diseases in livestock, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and infertility in female animals.

Oil seeds contain a large amount of oil and, therefore, can be quickly processed into a mealy. The second reason is that these oil seeds are rich in protein and other nutrients compared to soybeans.  They are low-cost, high-yielding, and available year-round.

5. Insect Meal

Insect meal is a by-product of insect rearing and can be used as a protein source in animal feed. Insect meal is produced by slaughtering the insects, extracting the protein from their bodies, dehydrating it, and grinding it into a fine powder. It contains about 22% crude protein and about 40% crude fat, making it an excellent energy source for animals.

In addition, insects contain all the essential amino acids needed by animals. They also have a lower fat content than soybeans, which is crucial because the animals that eat them cannot digest fats.

You can use insect meals as a substitute for soymeal in many applications, including:

  • Dairy cattle feed
  • Beef cattle feed
  • Swine feed
  • Poultry feed, particularly chicken broiler diets

Insects are considered an environmentally friendly source of protein because they are not as damaging to the environment as other essential sources like cows or pigs. They also do not require much land space or water to be grown, which makes them an excellent alternative source of protein in animal feed systems.

6. Single-Cell Protein Feed

An excellent energy source, single-cell protein contains all the necessary nutrients the animals need, such as fat, carbohydrate, and protein. In addition, it has a balanced amino acid profile, which means it contains all essential amino acids. This means that the animals can use it for their protein requirements.

Single-cell protein also has an ideal composition and structure for animal protein use.

This helps to ensure that the animals get all the amino acids for growth and development (protein). And the high digestibility rate helps improve the animals’ feed efficiency (energy conversion rate). You can use it as a protein substitute to replace soy meal in the feed ration of pigs and poultry.

In Conclusion

The soybean meal industry has come under scrutiny for a variety of reasons. Some people are concerned about the environmental impact of soybean production and the health effects of consuming soy-based products. As a result, consumers are looking for alternative sources of protein that offer similar benefits to soybean meal but without the potential downside.

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