Millions of tons of menhaden and other small fish are removed from the oceans each year to feed fish, poultry, and swine. The total amount of fish harvested for fishmeal has not changed in the last 20 years, but the demand has increased sharply. This pressure is thought by some to presage ecological problems and higher feed costs.
ARS scientists, led by fish physiologist Rick Barrows, are attacking the problem from many angles, one of which is to use barley protein as a main ingredient in feeds. Researchers at the Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit in Aberdeen, Idaho, are examining barley’s genes to improve the grain’s protein yield and nutritional composition and developing ways to concentrate the protein.
The research team is pursuing several approaches to enhance the use of barley protein in aquafeeds.
1. produce a highly valuable co-product, beta-glucan, for the human nutraceutical industry while also producing barley protein for fish.
2. concentrate the protein in standard field barley into a form usable in aquaculture feeds
“There is no current commercialization of barley protein concentrate in place, but MMP is producing pilot quantities for feeding studies in trout, salmon, and other species. MMP projects that the concentrate will sell for $700 to $1,200 per ton,” says Barrows. Since fishmeal costs about $1,200 per ton, and fish oil costs about $2,200 per ton, the projected costs of barley protein concentrate compare favorably.