Potential of Defatted Microalgae from the Biofuel Industry as a Feed Ingredient in Pig and Poultry Diets

Defatted microalgal biomass, a by-product from biofuel production, has potential as a new and sustainable feed ingredient for pigs, laying hens and broilers, according to Cornell University researchers.
calendar icon 21 May 2014
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While feeding food-producing animals with microalgae was investigated several decades ago, this research has been reactivated by the recent exploration of microalgae as the third generation of feedstocks for biofuel production, according to S. Gatrell and colleagues at Cornell University in Journal of Animal Science.

Because the resultant defatted biomass contains high levels of protein and other nutrients, it may replace a portion of corn and soybean meal in animal diets.

The laboratory of Cornell University's Department of Animal Science has acquired four types of full-fat and defatted microalgal biomass from biofuel production research (Cellana, Kailua-Kona, HI) that contain 13.9 to 38.2 per cent crude protein and 1.5 to 9.3 per cent crude fat.

The researchers' review - presented at the Non-ruminant Nutrition Symposium - summarises the safety and efficacy of supplementing two types of the biomass at 7.5 to 15 per cent in the diets of weaner pigs, broiler chicks and laying hens.

Based on their responses of growth performance, egg production and quality, plasma and tissue biochemical indicators, and/or faecal chemical composition, all three types of animals were able to tolerate the microalgal biomass incorporation into their diets at 7.5 per cent (on as-fed basis).

Holistic analysis is also provided to explore the global potential of using the defatted microalgal biomass as a new feed ingredient in offsetting the biofuel production cost, reducing the dependence on staple crops such as corn and soybeans, decreasing greenhouse gas production of animal agriculture and developing health value-added animal products.


Gatrell S., K. Lum, J. Kim and X.G. Lei. 2014. Non-ruminant Nutrition Symposium: Potential of defatted microalgae from the biofuel industry as an ingredient to replace corn and soybean meal in swine and poultry diets. J. Anim. Sci. 92:1306-1314.

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May 2014

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