Tyson Foods is undergoing a significant shift in its approach to protein production. The American food giant recently announced a strategic partnership with Protix, a Dutch company that bills itself as the “world leader in insect ingredients.”
Major meat producer Tyson is investing in Protix, a Netherlands-based insect ingredients maker, with plans to partner on construction of a U.S. factory.
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The collaboration will see Tyson Foods making a direct equity investment and acquiring a minority stake in Protix, all to establish an “insect ingredient facility” on U.S. soil.
In a statement released on October 17, Tyson Foods outlined its ambitious plans, which, when completed, will be a groundbreaking albeit unappetizing addition to protein production. The facility will be the first of its kind, designed to upcycle food manufacturing byproducts into insect proteins and lipids.
These insect-derived components are expected to play a pivotal role in various industries, including pet food, aquaculture, and livestock. John Tyson, the Chief Financial Officer of Tyson Foods, emphasized the strategic importance of this partnership.
He noted, “Our partnership with Protix represents the latest strategic investment by Tyson Foods in groundbreaking solutions that drive added value to Tyson Foods’ business. The insect life cycle provides the opportunity for full circularity within our value chain, strengthening our commitment to building a more sustainable food system for the future.”
The CEO of Protix, Kees Aarts, expressed his enthusiasm for the agreement, calling it “a major milestone for Protix” and highlighting how it significantly accelerates the company’s international growth ambitions. He also underscored the immediate benefit of utilizing Tyson Foods’ existing byproducts as feedstock for their insects.
Protix, a company established in 2019, has rapidly risen to prominence as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of insect ingredients. Operating out of the Netherlands, Protix boasts a substantial annual production and processing capacity, totaling 14,000 metric tons.
While the majority of their insect-based products find applications in pet food, aquaculture feed, livestock feed, and organic fertilizer, there is a growing movement to promote bug-based protein for human consumption, citing the “high-quality” protein they offer, apparently rich in essential amino acids, fiber, iron, and calcium.
The idea of incorporating insects into the human diet has been met with mixed reactions, especially in the West for their propensity to carry infectious diseases and parasites, and because of their toxicity to humans.
Insects possess an exoskeleton, where their skeletal structure is external to their bodies. An essential component of these exoskeletons is chitin, a substance with adverse effects on humans. Chitin has the potential to disrupt the human immune system and induce inflammation.
Research conducted in 2018 revealed that humans lack the ability to synthesize chitin internally. Prolonged consumption of chitin proteins can lead to tissue damage and result in deficiencies of both vitamins A and E.