Importance of accurate feed analysis in enhancing safety and quality of food, increasing productivity and welfare of the animal and conserving the environment
The global demand for livestock products is expected to increase by over 60 percent by 2050. The livestock sector is under significant pressure to greatly increase the amount of safe, nutritious feed available to animals to provide the products needed in the future. Providing animals with adequate, balanced diets, free of toxins and contaminants is essential to enhancing their productivity and welfare. Good quality feed also increases the incomes of producers, ensures a better quality product and a cleaner, greener environment. The safety and quality of animal feed is also vital for preventing hazardous substances entering the food. Feed analysis laboratories are essential for ensuring accurate information on the composition of feed ingredients and determining the level of desirable and undesirable substances, enabling the production of safe, balanced diets for livestock. Without them, it is almost impossible to control what animals eat.
Improving the safety and quality of food and welfare of the animals
Poor nutrition not only affects the productivity of the animal, but also its health, behaviour and welfare. Just as importantly, the safety and quality of the food chain can be affected because of the close link between feed and food-borne pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter. The presence of mycotoxins, heavy metals and pesticides in feed can also adversely affect animal and human health and product quality and safety. The safety and quality of animal feed is also vital for preventing hazardous substances entering the food chain and affecting human health. Contaminated feed has often resulted in the same feed – or food of animal origin – being recalled and/or destroyed with significant economic losses for the livestock industry, the producer and food security. Because of this, feed analysis laboratories play an important role in ensuring animal product quality via the accurate and regular measurement of contaminants and toxins.
Reducing costs, boosting profitability and strengthening local economies
Feed costs can be as high as 70 percent of the cost of producing an animal product. One way to reduce these costs is to ensure the animal has a balanced diet so nothing is wasted. A balanced diet is one that meets the nutritional needs of the animal, based on its physiological stage and targeted production level. To ensure a diet is balanced, feed analysis laboratories:
1. generate reliable data on chemical constituents;
2. help ensure the more efficient use of available feed resources in each diet; and
3. help producers reduce the cost of inputs by identifying least-cost rations, thereby increasing profits.
Additionally, good laboratory data can help promote the use of locally available feed resources and create employment, giving a boost to local economies. Good feed analysis also helps researchers develop more cost-effective and sustainable feeding strategies that can then be commercialized or directly used by farmers.
At a regional and international level, the reliable and accurate analysis of feed promotes trade and economic growth, not just involving livestock but also the feed itself.
Safeguarding the environment
A large part of what an animal eats (50 to 90 percent of feed carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus) is excreted. If not managed properly, these constituents can pollute the environment. The feeding of balanced diets decreases the level of excretion of feed nutrients. Feed analysis laboratories, therefore, assist in reducing the environmental pollution caused by animal production by more reliably determining the chemical constituents of feed ingredients and ensuring they are not excessive or unnecessary in the diets.
FAO assistance towards feed analysis
FAO provides assistance to government and non-government organizations to:
- integrate quality control systems and good management practices into feed analysis laboratories by developing capacity and providing tools and manuals;
- participate in the Feed Proficiency Test (Ring Test) coordinated by FAO;
- establish feed analysis laboratories and get them accredited;
- facilitate in-person and remote third party auditing of systems and procedures in feed analysis laboratories;
- identify the need-based purchase of equipment, by introducing a new method of resolving problems through an experts’ network;
- establish networks and associations of feed analysis laboratories to strengthen the quality of the data emerging from the laboratories;
- integrate the activities of feed analysis laboratories into public policies on livestock production, environment, food safety and quality, and animal welfare;
- make the feed industry more profitable and better equip public and private institutions to meet local and global food-feed security challenges;
- support the self-assessment of the quality control status of feed analysis laboratories through the provision of special tools; and
- introduce non-destructive, environmentally friendly and fast techniques such as Near Infrared
Spectroscopy (NIRS) for the analysis of feed constituents and nutritional value (also included are portable NIRS for in situ determination of chemical constituents and the nutritional value of the crops in the field, before harvesting).