Scientists hail meat growth tests

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 - Page 3

A research team from National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) said yesterday it has successfully developed a technology using the immune systems from a series of animals to stimulate faster than normal meat growth in domesticated livestock and fish, which would save on animal feed and help to combat the global food crisis.

Developed by a team led by associate professor Chen Tzong-Yueh (陳宗嶽) at NCKU’s Institute of Biotechnology, the rapid weight-gain method is said to greatly improve feed conversion rates (FCR, a system for measuring the efficiency for converting feed mass into increased body mass).

The team said that as the global population rapidly increases — estimates indicate there will be 8 billion people on the planet by 2030 — there is a growing demand for food, and meat in particular. The International Feed Industry Federation has estimated that global meat and dairy product consumption will rise from about 280 million tonnes annually to about 800 million tonnes by the middle of the century.

In order to help tackle the problem of the global food crisis, alongside rising prices of animal feed, the team said that it has developed a method using auto-immunity which can stimulate the animal to produce the antibodies that fight against myostatin (a protein that inhibits muscle growth), allowing faster muscle growth.

Having conducted experiments on groupers, Chen said “the FCR has reduced by about 20 percent, in other words, for example, where it used to take 1.2kg of animal feed to produce 1kg of fish meat, now it only takes 1kg of feed to produce the same amount of fish meat.”

Chen said the technology is considered as safe as injecting vaccines into the animals and can help avoid the use of ractopamine or other substances that may remain in the animal’s body and cause negative side effects.

The team says its innovations have been lauded with several national awards in biotechnology and that the technique is being transferred to firms around the world.