9.3 Single Cell Proteins

Conventional agricultural production of cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruits, etc., may not be able to meet the demand of food at the rate at which human and animal population is increasing.

The shift from grain to meat diets also creates more demand for cereals as it takes 3-10 Kg of grain to produce 1 Kg of meat by animal farming. Can you explain this statement in the light of your knowledge of food chains? More than 25 per cent of human population is suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

One of the alternate sources of proteins for animal and human nutrition is Single Cell Protein (SCP). Microbes are being grown on an industrial scale as source of good protein.

Microbes like Spirulina can be grown easily on materials like waste water from potato processing plants (containing starch), straw, molasses, animal manure and even sewage, to produce large quantities and can serve as food rich in protein, minerals, fats, carbohydrate and vitamins.

Incidentally such utilisation also reduces environmental pollution. It has been calculated that a 250 Kg cow produces 200 g of protein per day. In the same period, 250g of a micro-organism like Methylophilus methylotrophus, because of its high rate of biomass production and growth, can be expected to produce 25 tonnes of protein.

The fact that mushrooms are eaten by many people and large scale mushroom culture is a growing industry makes it believable that microbes too would become acceptable as food.

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