Just like many of you out there, I am a big fan of Netflix. The series ‘Chef’s Table’ is one of my favourites. The common theme in this series is that chefs around the world are sharing their passion for food, made out of local, unusual, or ancient ingredients. Is this belief, to use ancient and more local ingredients, also reflected in the animal feed industry?
The shift towards using local, forgotten and ancient ingredients is a trend seen all over the world, reflected and embodied by chefs in top listed restaurants. Some think it is part of the hipster movement, some call it a natural desire (often in urban areas) to go for a healthier lifestyle. It might also be a logical result of the fact that we are moving away from locally grown food. The need to rediscover our ancestral roots seems to be stronger than ever before. This is for example reflected in the black (the forbidden) rice and whole grain teff. Often, these ancient raw materials are full of flavour, nutrients and other good stuff.
PhD researcher Colin Khoury from the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) says that due to globalisation, the human food diets in every country are becoming more diverse. However, the differences between countries are getting smaller and smaller, he states. All the restaurant owners, who are featured in ‘Chef’s Table’, say so.
In this respect, the show about chef Alex Atala in Mexico in particular caught my attention. He explained that there are endless varieties of corn (maize): blue, white and multi coloured corn. At the same time, he is terrified that his creative and food loving brain might not be able to use these varieties in his future cooking. This is because mono culture is dominating the crop production. At the same time, strong efforts are being made to preserve and protect. On Spitsbergen for example, seeds are stored and protected from extinction. In other words, when a big disaster happens, we can still grow food crops.
These movements and trends that we see in human food – looking for new ingredients – also accounts a little bit for the animal feed industry. The majority of the animal diets are still formulated with conventional grains. And of course, the goals and challenges between cooking a dish and formulating an animal diet are completely different. Chefs want to distinguish themselves, be creative and find the optimum mix of flavours in one dish. Animal feed formulation is about getting a safe, healthy and economical interesting diet. But still. Insects, the ‘ancient’ ingredient for poultry diets is gaining a lot of attention. Next to this, ‘hipster food’ for animals can be found in new types of grains, algae and sprouted barley fodder for example. The quest for animal nutritionists is to understand the nutritional value, taste, processing (pelleting) characteristics of these ‘new’ ingredients, to be able to use them as a safe and valuable ingredient for food producing animals. Alternative ingredients for livestock are still a niche market and volumes are small. But innovation happens everywhere: in a Michelin star restaurant or amongst animal nutritionists and animal feed researchers. The next big thing for chefs is obvious though: Veggies from Mars. Very hipster!
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