Traditionally, livestock feed is made of corn, soybeans, sorghum, oats and barley. But now carbon dioxide based livestock feed is a reality. We still see many farmers feeding their animals corn and soy. The reason is that these are protein-rich food bases that cause animals to reach market weight quickly and are much cheaper than other food options. Unfortunately, corn is grown in a monoculture, which increases the risk of disease and pest outbreaks, requires excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, which run off into rivers and oceans, and decreases biodiversity due to the lack of diversity of plants grown.
Carbon Dioxide Based Livestock Feed for Protein
Researchers may have discovered a Carbon Dioxide based livestock feed protein substitute for livestock feed that is significantly less environmentally damaging than corn and soybean production. The researchers have explored the concept of synthetic nutrition, which means essential nutrients can be produced artificially, efficiently and with a small footprint. They have turned greenhouse gas emissions into an ingredient that could be used for carbon dioxide based livestock feed.
The researchers captured carbon dioxide and combined it with renewable hydrogen to make methanol powered by wind and solar energy. With the material created, they applied a series of enzymes into an eight-step process which, after several combinations, created an amino acid called L-alanine. This amino acid makes protein and is an energy source for muscles and the central nervous system. It also strengthens the immune system and helps the body use sugars.
This isn’t the first time researchers have been able to transform carbon dioxide into food products. Researchers have found a way to convert carbon dioxide into starch that typically comes from corn which requires a lot of land, water and fertilizer to grow. The process they used was 8.5 times more efficient than photosynthesis, which the corn plant uses to convert CO2 and sunlight into carbs. Moreover, their process took only four hours compared to the 120 days required for corn to grow and generate starch.
These new processes of using carbon dioxide to minimize the use of corn and starch will bypass the problem of repurposing a climate-damaging waste stream. Although there are other ways to synthesize L-alanine protein, they require emission-intensive processes that require petroleum products. Using existing carbon dioxide will reduce the need for emissions and harmful products. It also decouples production from the land because less land will be needed to produce the same amount of L-alanine. It will also use significantly less energy as the energy required will be taken from renewable sources.
The demand for animal protein continues, so the need for carbon dioxide based livestock feed will also rise. Researchers are developing solutions that utilize harmful and excess emissions that can be transformed into food for these animals. These new solutions will allow us to move away from excess land and water use and monocultures and help us create more biologically diverse environments.