Aquaculture North America

Vegan rainbow trout could hit market soon

May 14, 2019
By Liza Mayer

Rainbow trout species that can be raised on a fully plant-based diet has been identified through a genetic-selection research and will be grown by an Oregon farmer.

Professor Brian Small holds a rainbow trout fed on a fully plant-based diet at the University of Idaho Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station Rainbow trout species that can be raised on a fully plant-based diet

A study team led by USDA research geneticist Dr. Ken Overturf began evaluating in 2013 rainbow trout that tolerate higher levels of soybean meal. The fish that were able to break down and utilize the amino acids more efficiently were selected and additional generations reared. Ultimately, the research concluded that genetic variation does exist and can be selected for, leading the way to a rainbow trout raised on a fully plant-based diet. There have been nine generations of specifically selected rainbow trout raised since then.

Oregon-headquartered Pacific Seafood confirmed it will begin raising these plant-fed rainbow trout at one of its farming sites. “While the fish were bred for soy proteins, they can be fed a variety of plant proteins. At this time we are still testing a variety of feeds,” Lacy Ogan, communications manager at Pacific Seafood, told Aquaculture North America (ANA). Nearly one million fry have been bred to date.

“Research like this is critical to our stakeholders in the aquaculture industry,” said Overturf. “Soybean meal is abundant in the US. When you have a product that is consistent and available compared to fishmeal… it’s worth evaluating if genetic selection can lead to a fish species that can maximize the resource.”

The research was conducted by USDA-ARS in collaboration with the University of Idaho.  SAA and the United Soybean Board funded it.

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