Animal feed safety and quality
Animal feed safety and quality have come to the forefront in recent years, and the feed sector now finds that it needs to be applying food safety and quality measures, which are common practice in human food sector.
Feed must be safe for consumption by the animal. For example, it must be free from mycotoxins and any other chemicals that would be harmful to the animal, and it must not introduce pathogenic microorganisms to the animal. The resulting meat, milk or eggs must also be safe for human consumption. Things to consider here include, for example, the accumulation of pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins with long half-lives in meat and other animal products – things that might not be of concern to the animal itself, but which might be harmful to human health when consumed over time.
The quality and performance of animal feed is also receiving much more attention. High commodity costs continue to put pressure on margins. In order to maximise performance, a deeper understanding of raw material quality in relation to cost and performance is required. There is a need to ensure most cost effective formulations per unit of productivity (e.g. weight gain per kg of feed) – a factor that does not have to be considered in human food production. For example, there is a lack of fundamental understanding of why some varieties of wheat and maize may perform better in feed formulations than others; this is related to protein, carbohydrate and lipid compositions and interactions. There is also a need to ensure maximum return on investment from formulation costs (e.g. enzymes and other supplementary ingredients).
Safety issues are best controlled by a hazard analysis approach – identifying the realistic potential problems and putting measures in place either to prevent their occurrence or reduce the level of a hazard or the likelihood of its occurrence to acceptable levels. Much of this can be done by standard good hygiene and good manufacturing practices. The sector is actively adapting best practices from the food and medical sectors into animal feed production, and more prescriptive standards are now being formulated and adopted. In addition, legislation surrounding feed safety is now more closely mirroring that which controls food and drink. The control of quality issues is more commercially based – deciding on which of a multitude of options is appropriate for the particular situation, taking into account the imperative for safety. This would include, for example, feed particle size, and the addition of nutritional supplements or enzymes into the mixture.
Who and what is involved?
Two specific groups of people are involved in maintaining feed safety and quality: the manufacturers of the individual ingredients (both the basic grain raw material and the nutritional supplements and formulation enhancers), and the compounders and feed manufacturers.
In essence, they are looking to assure feed safety, including the minimisation of contamination, control the cost of raw materials, and optimise their quality.