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Offal not just for pets in protein demand

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2012

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Ever opened a tin of pet food and wondered what it would taste like? It may be time to try it out.

We may all need to start eating more offal and other meat products now used for pet food as the world faces a growing protein crunch, new research has found.

In a paper published in the journal Trends in Food Science & Technology, Kiwi and Dutch scientists warned that meat would be in high demand by 2050 as developing countries improved their standards of living.

"Traditional diets in developing countries, in which cereals and other staples were major components, have given way to food consumption patterns more similar to those found in developed countries, in which meat, eggs, fish and dairy products play a much more dominant role."

About 40 per cent of human protein needs were met by animal products, but that figure would "increase substantially" by 2050, the report says.

In order to meet the growing demand, people would need to start shifting other proteins up the food chain, and also start looking at more "novel" ways of getting protein - including increased rabbit farming, greater use of food waste, and even technologies such as synthetic meat.

One of the report's authors, Mike Boland from Massey University's Riddet Institute, said the paper laid out the big picture, and further work would now be done to "colour in" the different areas to understand the matters better.

"The main message is that demand for particularly animal-based protein is increasing and certain methods of production will not be able to keep pace with the demand . . . so we need to start looking at new ways of doing things."

Rejigging the food chain was one possible step. Offal, much of which often went straight to pet food, was an example of meat that could be redirected to humans. Other proteins could be produced using fly larvae, which could then be fed to animals.

People should also be sending food waste back into the food chain - such as feeding scraps to pigs - to stop protein being wasted, he said.

Synthetic meat was another possibility being investigated in the Netherlands, but it was a long way from being commercially viable.

Rather, Dr Boland saw New Zealand becoming a high-quality meat provider, while other countries would look to synthetic products and cheaper industrial-grade proteins.

Frankie Manclark, Wellington branch manager for Preston's Master Butchers, said Kiwi meat-eaters were already embracing offal, with oxtail more expensive than rump steak this week.

"We've had a huge uptake in the selling of offal over the last two or three years. Offal used to be a giveaway."

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- The Dominion Post

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