Biofuels Update

February 26, 2009 10:01 AM

Tastes Like Chicken

The ethanol industry is no longer concerned about swimming in its coproduct (distillers' grains) because nearly every new ton is finding a market. A growing market is the poultry industry, which is beginning to feed more of the coproduct as a way to offset production costs.

Mississippi State University (MSU) poultry scientist Alex Corzo and his colleagues are evaluating the differences between poultry on conventional diets and poultry on feed containing distillers' grains. They have studied live production and carcass traits, as well as color, texture and flavor of broiler meat. Initial taste testing shows there are no significant differences in broilers on the two different diets, Corzo says.

"Both treatments produce high-quality breast and thigh meat with minimal differences," Corzo says. "There was a slight preference from consumers for broilers fed traditional diets, but both products were well-liked overall and received high scores from participants."

Corzo and his colleagues fed layer hens one of five treatment diets containing increasing amounts of dried distillers' grains with solubles (DDGS), and then eval-uated factors such as egg production and quality.

There were no negative impacts on production of commercial layers with levels of up to 32% of DDGS in the diet, Corzo says. In addition, the layers showed superior egg production with up to 16% DDGS incor-porated into the feeding regimen.

"We also observed some benefits in regard to flavor and product acceptability with eggs from hens with DDGS in their diets," he adds.

Ethanol Industry Shifts Sideways

The ethanol industry should prepare for a shakeout year in 2009, says Jim Murphy, senior consultant with the Context Network, an agribusiness management consulting firm. Murphy spoke recently at Farm Journal Media's Top Producer Seminar.

"In some ways, 2009 is similar to the mid-1990s when we saw a contraction in the ethanol industry," he said. "Although we don't see as severe a contraction, we also don't see a lot of growth. The ethanol industry will move sideways."

The drop in oil prices and rise in corn prices have crippled ethanol plants, with most operating at break-even for the past six months, Murphy said. Meanwhile, the global financial crisis further tightened the availability of working capital.

"Ethanol facilities are quickly burning through their working capital," Murphy said. Some analysts have projected more than 40 plants will close by year-end. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) calculates around 1.8 billion gallons of production capacity is currently idled, due to economic troubles.

Ethanol capacity, however, is not likely to disappear as it did in the mid-1990s, Murphy said. "Ethanol companies are not going to sell off assets piecemeal, such as pumps and tanks, like last time. The capacity will remain intact because someone out there is going to buy those assets for pennies on the dollar and mothball them until the proper time."

Long-term, he projects oil prices will rise and ethanol economics will improve. "There will be political challenges, and I expect the blenders credit and import tariff will be gradually reduced," he said. "But overall, [President] Obama continues to back biofuels."

Scientists Support Biodiesel

In an effort to showcase mounting scientific support for biodiesel, scientists from around the world are joining the "Scientists for Bio-diesel" campaign. The campaign aims to garner more investment in biofuels research and allow scientists to share information about their work on biodiesel.

By visiting, scientists can share information about their work and sign a declaration that says in part, "Biodiesel from a variety of feedstocks
can meet contemporary needs for environmental stewardship, economic prosperity, and quality of life without compromising the ability of future generations to meet these needs for themselves."

"Scientists sometimes have differences of opinion, but this declaration is intended to show the broad consensus among scientists about the benefits of biodiesel," says Rob Myers, director of the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute and cofounder of Scientists for Biodiesel. "Our goal is to increase awareness and information sharing about
the scientific research behind biodiesel that contributes to its sustainability."

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