KOCHI: What if hens lay low-cholesterol and therefore, healthier eggs, cows produce 30% more milk with cheaper cattle feed and butter chicken becomes more nutritious? There must be something fishy about this, or someone's been drinking, right? Right - and true.
India's poultry and dairy industries have discovered that fish residue and brewery waste as poultry and cattle feed, respectively, make eggs healthier and milk, more plentiful. The science is this: If hens are fed with fish residue, the healthy cholesterol-battling Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil easily move through the hen's digestive system to the yolk of the egg, which is otherwise a cholesterol bomb. Even butter chicken will be relatively healthy if the bird is fed this diet.
For dairies, the brewery waste is full of nutrients - only starch from the grain is used to make alcohol - lacking in traditional cattle feed like rice husk. And there's nothing fishy or boozy about the economics either. Beer waste is now so much in demand that it is booked in advance and the number of contractors in this business is rising every year.
The price difference and the better yield make beer waste a compelling proposition. The leftovers at breweries cost around Rs 5 a kg compared with Rs 17-18 a kg for the regular cattle feed. Substituting 30-40% of the cattle feed with beer waste leads to 20% better milk productivity. Farmers and businessmen are already seeing the benefits of the new brew. "A farmer using regular cattle feed will have to spend Rs 150 a day for a single cow or buffalo. Substituting a part of it with beer waste can bring down the cost effectively to around Rs 60.
And you get more milk,'' says Siva Chandra, a contractor based in Chennai, who has been supplying beer waste to farms in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The only drawback is that brewery waste has a shelf life of a few days. For the poultry business, feed mixed with oil from fish waste, particularly from sardines, enrich the diet and the cost is comparable to regular feed.
"The intestines and other parts of fish are rich in such oil which is easily absorbed by the bird...the egg yolk will be rich in Omega 3," said Dr Anandan, scientist at the Central Institute of Fish Technology, which has developed the new technology that is now ready for commercial use after five years of research under the National Agricultural Innovation Project. The institute has produced such eggs experimentally in a farm and is now waiting for entrepreneurs to adopt the technology and ultimately pave the way for branded Omega 3 eggs.
The brewery-to-milk business production chain obviously involves big liquor manufacturing companies that produce lots of brewery waste. Kerala Livestock Development Board, a government body that manages several farms in the state, buys beer waste from United Breweries at Palakkad. Farmer and dairy owner C J Skaria Pillai supplies beer waste from the Palakkad brewery to several farms.
"There are around 45 contractors vying for nearly 700 tonnes of beer waste a month from the brewery," he said. The spokesperson of UB Group declined to divulge the details on the quantity of beer waste the group sells from its breweries and how much it earns from it.