U.S. Soybeans Making Aquaculture More Sustainable
Aquaculture is the fastest growing form of food production in the world, accounting for 50 percent of all seafood consumed globally. Faced with gravely endangered wild fish stocks, aquaculture is increasingly bridging the gap between declining supply and growing global demand for healthful seafood.
Although aquaculture has become more eco-friendly due to advances in fish biology and operational technology in recent years, environmental concerns remain about the inclusion of fishmeal and fish oil from wild-caught resources in aquafeeds. Feed conversion ratios are a factor in determining an aquaculture product's sustainability – how many pounds of wild fish in feed it takes to produce a pound of farmed fish.
Just a few years ago, most aquafeed consisted mainly of fishmeal and fish oil from wild-caught "reduction" fisheries – small ocean fish not commonly used for human consumption, such as anchovies and menhaden. Removing those small fish from the ocean food chain has not been well-researched in terms of impact, and the practice has raised questions among environmental groups.
With a commitment from the U.S. soy industry to research, develop, and promote specially formulated soy-based feeds, it is now possible to replace up to one-half of the fishmeal in feeds for many marine farmed species, and all of the fishmeal in many freshwater farmed species. Soy-based feeds are rich in the proteins and nutrients that grow fish efficiently. In fact, soy in aquafeed much more efficiently produces fish and seafood than other types of livestock, with 1 to 1.5 lbs. of feed producing one pound of fish. In comparison, it takes up to 1.9 lbs. of feed to produce one pound of poultry and 2.5 lbs. of feed to produce one pound of pork.
As soybean meal has a significantly lower cost than fishmeal and fish oil, as well as consistent quality and availability, soy-based aquafeeds help to lower the overall cost of farmed seafood. This increases its affordability and availability to consumers.
Most importantly, soy in aquafeed reduces the pressure on wild fish resources, both at the bottom of the ocean food chain (by replacing wild-caught fishmeal/fish oil), and at the top of the ocean food chain, by increasing the supply of healthy, sustainably farm-raised seafood.