Go Beyond the “Buzzword” Amino Acids

In the world of animal nutrition, people like me create complete diet formulations that will strive to achieve some end goal with animals raised for food production.  In reality, there are always several goals, but in this blog post, I’ll just refer to assembling formulations to meet certain nutrient requirements – levels of digestible nutrients that maximize/optimize the production of meat, milk, or eggs.

Amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, are very important.  Whether you’re trying to maximize muscle protein as part of meat production, or assemble milk or egg proteins, the amounts of amino acids fed to production animals are always a concern.  In short, if the right collection of amino acids is not present, and each one of them at the necessary levels, performance will be curtailed, guaranteed.

In animal nutrition, there are always two amino acids that get nearly all the attention – lysine and methionine, for good reasons.  In the typical corn-soy meal based diet, used around the world with swine and poultry producers (and for some farmed fish), one or both of these amino acids will often limit production.  What this means is that either lysine, methionine, or both, are supplied in quantities that limit protein formation in these animals.  As such, the amounts of proteins the animals make are reduced, and slower growth performance can often be observed.

To remedy this situation, a few large companies figured out how to make synthetic lysine and methionine, and these ingredients are added to commercial diets – protein synthesis and performance are improved, often very economically.  Many imitators have followed, and this has resulted in numerous products with “buzzword” names – at times with the names of the amino acids as part of the product brand name.

Often lost in the “buzzword” confusion is that, in fact, 20 amino acids are required to build proteins as animals produce what we need.  Recently, an article discussed the importance of valine, a branched-chain amino acid, and discussed various ingredients that are good sources.

Indeed, new research is published on a regular basis highlighting the important roles that many amino acids play.  Recently, a research group indicated that the amount of digestible valine required by broilers during finishing should be increased to maximize performance – especially difficult as the total amount of protein (which is an expensive part of the diet) tends to be lower in these late-stage formulations.  I’ve personally encountered this situation a few times when formulating diets for Insta-Pro customers.

Luckily, I was always able to overcome this by switching to ExPress® soy meal, a better quality version of soybean meal, with higher valine digestibility.  This increase in valine digestibility resulted in a major formulation change – the amount of ExPress® meal in the formulation increased dramatically.

In this case, the valine composition was the same for each type of soybean meal, which is not always true.  Raw soybeans have different nutrient contents, and even the same variety of beans will vary in nutrient content based on growing conditions.

So, while “buzzword” amino acids are thrown around, consider them all.  Could changing to a higher-quality ingredient mean that other, expensive ingredients are now not required?