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Past, present and future of the feed industry- 2

The future focus of the feed industry will be to verify their ability to meet consumer demands of safety and sustainability, while becoming more efficient and productive in order to feed the nine billion people estimated to be alive globally in 2050. Consolidation of the existing 31,043 feed mills will continue, probably seeing numbers halve in the next ten years. Advanced technologies will increase automation and real-time measurements so that verification is not dependent on the honesty of the supplier. Transparency, traceability and responsibility will become a cornerstone of the industry.


D. Coffey
K. Dawson
P. Ferket
A. Connolly

Founded in 1987 in Luxembourg by the then leading international feed associations, the IFIF was born from the need to better reflect the increasingly global nature of today’s global feed business and its need for connectivity.

Today, this organisation represents over 80% of the global animal feed production and most, or all, of the industry’s leaders and influential feed companies are present on its Board of Directors, either directly or through local associations. The IFIF Board includes representatives from the China Feed Association, the Brazil Feed Association, AFIA, FEFAC, Cargill, Nutreco, Alltech and DSM among others.

IFIF has played an instrumental part in conducting discussions to help ensure high standards of health and welfare for animals and people, by collaborating with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Codex Alimentarius Commission and other international bodies to help set international regulatory standards for the whole feed chain and support fair trade.

Given the anticipated growth of the world’s population to around 9 billion people by 2050, and the associated higher demand for animal proteins including eggs, milk and meat, it is vital that we can meet this challenge in a sustainable and safe way. IFIF has engaged with the global feed industry to facilitate discussions about the central role of feed in issues of food safety and sustainability. In particular, the association has had a fourteen-year(1) relationship with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

This ongoing relationship has resulted in a number of very successful initiatives, including the publication of an IFIF FAO manual about standards for good feed manufacturing. More recently, the FAO and IFIF have also been involved with initiatives to more accurately measure, benchmark and improve the sustainability of the livestock production chain and to analyze the role of antibiotics used in feed.

IFIF also aims to play a proactive role to promote science-based solutions and information sharing for feed manufacturers, consumers and regulatory authorities worldwide on a variety of issues that affect the supply of safe and affordable water and animal proteins such as beef, poultry, fish and dairy products, by facilitating global forums, such as the Global Feed & Food Congress (GFFC) and the International Feed Regulators Meeting (IFRM).

From 1970 a variety of ingredients, equipment, and technologies have been developed to improve animal nutrition and feed efficiency. To improve animal performance by assuring adequate dietary balance for protein synthesis and meat production, the addition of essential amino acids began in 1977 with liquid methionine hydroxyl analogue, followed by dry DL-methionine in 1985, L-tryptophan in 1987, L-lysine monohydrochloride and taurine in 1989, L-tyrosine and L-arginine in 1990, and L-threonine during the late 2000s. The first use of ionophores in the 1970s and the development of premix (a uniform mix of micro-ingredients) further advanced feed quality and digestion. Other amino acids and supplements replacing antibiotics and other compounds were introduced to feeding later in the 1980s.

The Alltech Global Feed Survey was established in 2011 to better estimate world feed tonnage and production trends. Now, with four years of data, there is a more accurate depiction of where the feed industry is today. Since the first survey, global supply of complete feed has grown to 980 million tonnes valued at $460 billion, a substantial expansion from the 873 million tonnes and estimated $350 billion in 2011 (Alltech, 2015). Over this four year timeframe, the greatest increase in production happened early on, as a myriad of challenges including drought, floods, high costs of raw materials, animal disease and fluctuating governance import/export standards has limited the industry to a modest growth in latter years (Alltech, 2014).

Regionally, Asia continues to be the largest contributor to world feed production, representing more than one third of the global supply. Initially Asia proved to be among the fastest growing regions, but lately growth has slowed to a more subtle increase. The number of feed mills worldwide has been estimated as being over 31,000 and more than half of those are found in Asia and North America alone. Africa and, more recently, Latin America were found to be the fastest growing regions with regard to number of feed mills and feed tonnage (Alltech, 2015). The largest average feed mill size, however, is found in the Middle East region, producing more than 63,000 tonnes on average per annum (Alltech, 2013).

China, Brazil, India and Russia (BRIC) are countries highlighted for their powerful entrance into the industry. These four countries represented a 33 million tonne increase in production by 2012, and India’s favourable conditions and advancements have stimulated further growth (Alltech, 2013). Beyond the BRIC countries, the focus is on Turkey, Indonesia and Romania due to their substantial increase in production in 2014.

In terms of total feed tonnage, China is the world leader by a distinct margin, but since 2013 the country’s feed industry has experienced a decline in both feed mills and feed tonnage, which is likely to have been driven by the government’s preference for consolidation to increase traceability. Analysts attribute this decrease in production to suppressed consumer demands as a result of the slower pork market and avian flu (Alltech, 2015). These circumstances are a testament to the value of food safety and quality and its growing emphasis in China. More than ever, animal feed is being recognised for its integral role in the food chain and is perceived as a shared value and responsibility on a global scale. The U.S. and Brazil consistently rank second and third in feed production, reaching up to 172 million tonnes and 66 million tonnes respectively.

Poultry has sustained its position as industry leader with 44–46% of the feed market share, which is probably due to taste, perceived healthiness, flexibility in cooking use and religious preferences as well as its relatively low cost. Feed production for the pig sector has increased steadily since 2011, even in the face of increased prices for raw materials. Ruminants, on the other hand, saw a decrease in market share, specifically in 2013, as high feed prices forced producers to utilise alternative feed sources (Alltech, 2014). The dairy sector has since shown recovery and increased its utilisation of compound feed, unlike beef producers who continued to exploit alternative sources into 2014. Changes in the value of milk products worldwide will dictate how the dairy sector’s feed consumption varies in future. Aquaculture has seen tremendous growth since 2011, increasing market share by as much as 17% per year. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has released data indicating that trends in global consumption of farmed fish and shellfish exceeds that of beef on a weight basis. Finally, equine and pet foods continue to increase in tonnage, with equine peaking at 17% growth in 2012. The U.S. has always been the world’s major producer of pet food, but increases in household pet populations have positioned Brazil to expand into pet food at a rapid pace (Alltech, 2013).

The European region, and the E.U. in particular, have tried to stay ahead of the curve where food safety and quality are concerned. Most recently this region has experienced a decrease in overall production, especially for pigs and dairy cows (FEFAC, 2015). A steep decline in cattle feed production has been attributed to falling milk prices, suppressing the demand from farmers. Cattle and pig sectors are projected to continue to drop and Russia’s ban on western imports threatens to stifle overall E.U. feed production. Most recently the European Commission College adopted the controversial proposal that nationalised GM crop imports for feed and food. E.U. organisations including COCERAL, FEDIOL and FEFAC say the possible bans on GM crops could be detrimental to the economy and could lead to a serious feed shortage (Irish Examiner, 2015). In other words, social climate and media opinion has reached a point where it poses a potential hindrance to efficient production (FEFAC, 2015). According to Secretary General of FEFAC Alexander Doring, there are efforts emerging to revisit many E.U. regulations thought to have been developed in response to the crisis but which are now lacking relevance in today’s feed industry.

As for the U.S., production of primary feed is led by the Corn Belt States (primary maize growing areas such as the mid-west), followed by the south eastern region. Animal to feed ratios given by the Feed Additive Compendium (2014), which compares the market value of a single animal to the price of feed, indicated that profitability due to feed costs increased from 2013 to 2014, suggesting a recovery from high 2013 feed prices (Feed Stuffs, 2014). Steers and heifers showed the greatest increase in profitability, followed by hogs and, while feed purchases by farmers have increased from 2008 to 2013, the overall feed price index has fallen significantly since 2012.

The continued industrialisation of the feed industry has resulted in more tonnes produced by fewer feed mills. This consolidation trend is consistent in the E.U., U.S. and China; all of which have seen a substantial decrease in the number of feed mills, yet an overall increase in tonnage. Consolidation has been particularly favourable in China, as it assists in meeting food safety and traceability standards (Alltech, 2014).

The future of the feed industry will evolve based on a rapidly growing global population, changing social-economic climate, increasingly involved consumers and media and the constant pursuit for greater efficiency. The increase in population and GDP suggests demand for both cereal grain and meat protein will continue to increase. So, what might the future of the industry look like in order to accommodate these objectives? At this point, the cost of feed demonstrates a need for companies to re-evaluate and improve feed efficiency. Advancements in raw materials may result in novel feed stocks that change the entire approach to feed formulation. This is no longer a concern only for monogastric animals. Inexpensive feed options traditionally given to ruminants are limited and the future alternative is a carefully formulated feed aimed for greater efficiency in monogastrics and ruminants. As the modern consumer has reached a new level of political and commercial involvement, there will be increased demands on the feed industry to stand accountable for their role in the food chain. As companies continue to be more consumer-oriented, so their focus on sustainability and their environmental footprint grows. Greenhouse gas emission and environmental impacts of animal production will all be considered, and will push feed mill and farm efficiency forward.

Consumers are becoming more selective in purchasing meat, milk and eggs, questioning what their animals eat and how they are kept. They see the feed mill as integral in the food chain and influencing human diet, which has now developed into a culture that wants to know exactly what medicines, practices, supplements and feedstuffs go into the animals they consume. Food safety continues to be a serious concern as today’s feed may contain hazards, such as heavy metals, high dioxin levels, PCB’s and mycotoxins. All of these toxins have the potential to enter the food chain via animal feed. Analytical systems have been developed to quantitatively and qualitatively detect the presence of such hazards in feed. Over time these methods will become more sophisticated and provide more rapid results, allowing the industry and government to react to ensure food safety. Food quality will continue to be a priority for many consumers and companies, putting it at the forefront of feed manufacturing. Concerns about food safety and quality at every stage in feed production will drive companies to be increasingly more transparent. Government regulations, such as the Food Safety Modernisation Act in the U.S. continue to enforce risk-based preventative animal feed safety systems.

In the future feed systems are likely to become even further intertwined with information technology, eventually allowing the flow of detail throughout the steps in the food chain whereby farm, feed mill, processing plant, retailer and consumer are connected. In this way, feed availability will be able to mirror demand and, in doing so, dramatically increase efficiency and reduce waste.

Widespread digitalisation will lead to on-farm measurements and monitoring done in real-time. This includes automated weighing scales sending continuous data on body weight, temperature and feed consumption for improving efficiency of animal production and welfare, while limiting waste. Systems in place for measuring environmental gases, excretion on land and other biological and chemical parameters will be useful in documenting the effects of nutrients on animal health, thus providing insight for necessary changes in diet strategy. Such measurements will also contribute to increased on-farm biosecurity.

As we look at new and more precise technologies to address nutritional challenges, it is clear that our views of nutrition, feed manufacture and feeding practices will continue to evolve. This will be reflected in the activities and structure of the global feed industry. It is possible to see these changes taking place today, as research and commercial applications focus more on modelling the dynamics of nutrient digestion, balance and utilisation, moving away from feeding practices based on the simple nutrient composition. As we develop more advanced technologies for controlling digestion and nutrient utilisation, traditional ways of formulating feeds based on compositional analyses will play a less important role defining feed formulation. These fine control mechanisms will be coupled with our ability to collect information about all aspects of the food chain and will define a new level of proactive precision feeding. It will be necessary to discard some of the time-honoured ways of describing nutritional value. This will open the door for the use of new feed ingredients, long-term nutritional conditioning and other novel supplement strategies. The outcomes will include improved production efficiencies, better maintenance of animals and more sustainable production.

Nutrigenomics is already being utilised in the development and understanding of certain nutrients, and is expected to provide standards for understanding both nutritional and environmental factors hindering production efficiency and welfare. Such information can allow a new level of precision in feed formulation and livestock production. Nutrigenomics is key in understanding the impacts of different nutrients on gene expression and provides the basis for more rational genetic selection. Subsequently, feeds will be closer to achieving genetic potential by targeting genes which are involved in animal growth rate, disease prevention and meat quality. Results from these studies will identify anti-nutritional activity and define feeding strategies that take advantage of the natural conditioning processes associated with prenatal and perinatal feed management practices.

The feed mill, itself, will become ‘smarter’, for example, with the use of NIR technology. This allows the analysis of incoming raw materials in real time, allowing reformulation of the diets on a minute-by-minute basis to ensure consistency of each batch manufactured. Additionally, rapid, in vitro digestion modelling systems will provide new ways of defining the true nutritional value of raw materials as well as the final feed products leaving the feed mill. These advanced systems can be used to define nutrient interactions and provide more accurate descriptions of nutritional values. Precision modelling and real-time decisions, resulting from greater amounts of information, will allow the feed industry to address issues associated with sustainability as well as minimise waste and the environmental impact from animal production. In the end, such technologies have the capability to provide a more objective feedstuff value for the interested buyer (Gill 2003).

Today, a typical western feed mill producing 100,000 tonnes of feed might involve the employment of three or less people. In a country like China, the same feed mill would require the labour of 45 individuals. This trend is expected to continue, whereby future feed mills become fully automated and a single person can effectively run a relatively large feed mill alone. As mill quality control systems continue to improve via automation for each of the different steps of production, traceability technology will allow larger volumes to be transported and tracked, while decreasing necessary labour. Not only does this provide a greater level of efficiency, but the increase in precision and data collection can then increase exponentially. In the future there is potential to apply artificial intelligence to analyse data and make immediate adjustments based on system inputs. Advancements are likely to occur in the pelleting process, so that what is now considered an art might become more of a science. By controlling more of the parameters involved in pelleting and cooling there is opportunity to reduce costs, improve feed quality and assure food safety.

The rate at which any of the aforementioned solutions are adopted by the industry is dependent on the challenges it faces. The immediate approach of the feed industry, however, is to improve animal performance characteristics, minimise costs, and maximise feed production efficiencies. Above all, digestibility and FCR require attention. Novel ingredients continue to be explored for their capacity to effectively improve FCR. Once identified and developed, such ingredients become necessary inclusions in diet formulations, especially in situations when the efficiency of each point of feed conversion becomes increasingly valuable.

One possible ingredient that could become commonplace to feed formulation is algae: a source of protein, oils, pigments, vitamins and starch. Emerging technology positions algae to become a major, nutritionally-rich biomass and it is already known as a prime source of omega-3 fatty acids. Initial trials utilising algae produced results showing improvements in both reproductive performance and nutritional value of meat. Solid state fermentation (SSF) is an ancient technology that, with new techniques and applications, can be used for growing enzymes directly on feedstuffs. SSF makes it possible to produce a custom enzyme cocktail that can be used for improving digestion of feed stuffs, which enhances animal health, performance and profitability. The process involves growing a specific strain of Aspergillus fungi directly on feed, which gives a substrate-specific array of enzymes which aid in the digestion of fibre and other nutrients to a degree that has never been accomplished with traditional, batch fermentation methods. Data from trials in poultry, pigs and aquaculture have shown improved digestion and significant potential savings as a result of including such products in feed.

The future focus of the feed industry will be to verify their ability to meet consumer demands of safety and sustainability, while becoming more efficient and productive in order to feed the nine billion people estimated to be alive globally in 2050. Consolidation of the existing 31,043 feed mills will continue, probably seeing numbers halve in the next ten years. Advanced technologies will increase automation and real-time measurements so that verification is not dependent on the honesty of the supplier. Transparency, traceability and responsibility will become a cornerstone of the industry. Analytical technologies, such as NIR, advanced in vitro fermentation modelling, nutrigenomics and bioinformatics will intervene in feed formulation so that nutritional value is defined and feed formulation and manufacturing is no longer an ‘art’ but a more precise science. Similar technologies will be in place to detect contaminants and allow a new level of food safety. To achieve increased animal performance while minimising feed costs, new nutritional strategies, such as novel raw materials and feed additives, must be employed to optimise feed conversion and digestibility.

* Editor’s note: (1) As of 2016, when the article was published
*This article was originally published in the Journal of Applied Animal Nutrition, Vol. 4; e3; page 1 of 11.

In our previous article titled "Past, present and future of the feed industry-1" information is given about "feed planet, Past ve present and future of the feed industry".

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