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Cargill’s usage of novel ingredients grows

In the current market volatility, the company has been using its strategic position in the global food supply chain to explore alternative protein choices, invest in new technologies, and source sustainable raw materials.

Brad Rude, director of Global Risk Management and Sourcing Cargill Aqua Nutrition. Credits: Cargill
January 22, 2024

The current volatile market condition for all feed ingredients has been challenging feed manufacturers for the past few years and has pushed them to a change in their raw materials basket. This situation does not affect all feed producers in the same way. Companies like Cargill take advantage of its unique position as both a raw material and feed producer. The company is using its strategic position in the global food supply chain to explore alternative protein choices, invest in new technologies, and source sustainable raw materials, as Brad Rude, director of Global Risk Management and Sourcing Cargill Aqua Nutrition, explained to

An example of how Cargill takes advantage of its unique position is a regenerative agriculture pilot that started in 2022 involving farmers in northern and western England, to address the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on salmon feed production. The project focused on wheat gluten and rapeseed oil and resulted in documented carbon reduction and removals. “We are embracing a flexible approach to regenerative agriculture, helping farmers adopt regenerative practices that are tailored to their unique situations,” Rude said.

Cargill has also been working on its Price Risk Solutions program that takes market insight and provides customized pricing strategies for producers and consumers to manage price volatility, mitigate risks, and enhance portfolio diversification.

“These are just two examples of how Cargill's integrated role in raw material and feed production helps us help our customers proactively address industry challenges,” Rude stated.

Insect-based ingredients

Cargill has incorporated novel sources such as insect protein to address current challenges. “Recognizing the environmental benefits, we have partnered with Innovafeed to introduce ingredients like black soldier fly larvae. The larvae yield high-quality protein and fatty acids with minimal land, water, and resource usage,” Rude said.

The partnership on supply and R&D is providing new insights that are helping evolve the company’s understanding of aqua nutrition and the strategic fit of certain novel ingredients. “This is helping us, for example, target a specific subset of feeds where the novel characteristics have the biggest performance impact and then bring that impact to customers,” Rude explained.

While Cargill’s initial collaboration with Innovafeed has focused on aqua nutrition, the expanded partnership includes more species – starting with the use of oil derived from insects in swine and poultry feed. Using insect oil in piglet diets represents a reduction in the carbon footprint of the oil component of the diet by up to 81% compared to vegetable oil sources. After three years of running trials and exploring the practical solutions to be able to use insect oil in piglet feed, Cargill is now at the stage where piglet feed with insect oil is being produced and sold to certain markets outside of the UK. In addition to application in piglets, Cargill is pioneering trials to compare insect oil versus plant oils in broiler diets, and to date, has found similar performance with no detrimental effects. The insect oil from black soldier fly larvae is relatively high in lauric acid. It is further exploring the expected benefits of lauric acid in insect oil on broiler gut health and welfare.

Low-carbon soy protein

Meanwhile, the list of novel ingredients continues to grow. “It’s exciting to think about how it will evolve in the years to come,” Rude stated.

In the search for innovation in ingredients and ingredients sourcing, the company started a collaboration with Houdek, a US-based company to introduce Me-Pro, a low-carbon soy protein concentrate crafted through precision fermentation. Their innovative process involves utilizing non-genetically modified soy, addressing the limited US supply.

“Me-Pro, Proterra certified, serves as a 100% compatible alternative to Brazilian soy. We are excited about this partnership and the potential of precision fermentation to upcycle traditional plant proteins into more usable feed ingredients,” Rude said.

This shift in ingredient sourcing is not just a change but a strategic evolution in Cargill’s purchasing approach. “By exploring sustainable alternatives and capitalizing on circular processes, such as using insect compost as fertilizer for arable land, we are laying the building blocks for a more resource-efficient future. This aligns with our commitment to sustainability and helps our customers meet their own sustainability goals,” Rude explained.

The current usage of novel ingredients varies across different Cargill aquafeed segments but continues to grow, reflecting a broader industry shift towards sustainability and innovation. “Insect protein, algal oil, fermented proteins, and hydrolyzed byproducts, in particular, are making notable strides in fish and shrimp feed formulations,” Rude said.

Sustainability and certification

The company’s commitment to sustainability is an important aspect of its business strategy, influencing decisions on how to balance animal health, performance, and environmental impact for the benefit of people and the planet. “This includes partnering across our industry to explore innovative ingredients for both land-based and aquatic species to reduce our carbon footprint while meeting the increasing demand for protein,” said Rude.

Certified ingredients have always been crucial for Cargill. “We're committed to sourcing marine ingredients from sustainably managed third-party fisheries by 2025. We value certifications from organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council and MarinTrust, and we actively participate in Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), such as the one recently announced in Chile. We are also involved in a financing concept by WWF and Finance Earth that reflects our dedication to catalyzing over $100 million in investments for sustainable fisheries by 2030,” Rude said.

Milennial Salmon

Cargill is one of the partners of the Millennial Salmon project, a strategic partnership among organizations along the value chain of salmon production. In collaboration with other stakeholders, the project aims to pioneer a “Millennial” generation salmon that meets the growing demand for sustainable, high-quality protein while minimizing reliance on primary natural resources.

“The key takeaway so far has been, from a nutritional perspective, that there are ways that we can replicate, or nearly replicate, incumbent diet designs with new, novel and more sustainable ingredients. This holds a lot of promise for how we create better feeds in the future,” Rude said.

Cargill's participation in the Millennial Salmon project aligns with the broader aim of creating a knowledge-based and visible salmon value chain. “By focusing on circular economy principles and millennial ideals of living healthy, having a purpose, trusting peers, and considering societal and environmental impacts, the project strives to set a new standard for sustainable aquaculture. The collaboration between leading research institutes and commercial actors, including Cargill, positions the project as a helpful force in shaping a more sustainable and responsible future for the salmon industry,” Rude concluded.