Life cycle assessment of the essential supplemental amino acids in animal nutrition
In the public mind there is an ongoing debate about the environmental impacts of farming and intensive livestock production as well as on the environmental benefits and costs of chemical production for the food chain. Providing these intensive discussions with detailed information contributes to a sustainable comprehension of the advantages of the production of supplemental essential amino acids covering both: the significant improvement of feed and food quality and the sustainable reduction of environmental pollution. Therefore, the question as to the potential of the chemical industry to contribute to environmental protection seems to be a viable and worthwhile goal. A better understanding of the ecological synergy between sustainable production in chemistry, environmental protection and welfare of animals and final consumers is needed.
The life cycle assessment methodology represents an international scientific standard for the evaluation of all impacts resulting from technical production processes. The impact of agriculture on the environment is an interesting topic due to ecological health and natural resources. In general, the impacts of agriculture are well known and a set of agri-environmental indicators have been designed for an effective monitoring of renewable raw materials. Today, life cycle assessments can compare the use of supplemental amino acids in animal nutrition versus equivalent amounts of these essential building blocks from natural protein sources, e.g. soybean meal and rapeseed meal. The overall principle applied in life cycle assessments is the comparison of substantially equal feed sources. That means two options are always drawn to provide the same nutritional recommendations of the animals. One option covers the nutritional demand of essential amino acids through sources such as soybean meal or rape seed meal. The other provides the same amount of nutritionally recommended amino acids by supplemental sources. Additional quantities of domestically or locally produced wheat are added to balance the energy content of the different diets.
Several independent life cycle assessments on the use of supplemental amino acids, showed for example a specific ratio between emissions caused by chemical production and the overall savings of emissions during the application of the specific chemical substances during its product life. This demonstrates that the supplementation of amino acids positively benefits the environment. Not only environmental protection and animal welfare profit from the sustainable use of feed additives in animal nutrition, but the studies also clearly prove that the effective supplementation with amino acids to animal feed significantly impacts the resourceful use of farmland. An improved feed conversion ratio enhances the efficiency of production and reduces the demand of feed raw materials; the worldwide use of more than 900,000 metric tons of methionine can save some 20 million hectares of crop land, which is the size of Belarus or Senegal. Against this background, it becomes clear that potential exists to balance the growing need for other feed or food production as well as to cover the nutritional demand of the continuously growing number of people on the earth.