Fish Feed and Fur Animals Focus of European Renderers

By Tina Caparella


European renderers had many reasons to attend the European Fat Processors and Renderers Association (EFPRA) Congress in June besides it being held in the historical city of Prague, Czech Republic. Along with networking and hearing from various speakers on research projects and fur animals, renderers were updated on the European Union (EU) now allowing animal proteins back in aquaculture feed as of June 1, 2013.

EFPRA Technical Director Dr. Martin Alm said consumer demand for food has changed from requiring a need to eat to being concerned over the safety of their food, which could impact the re-introduction of processed animal proteins (PAPs) in fish feed.

Alex Obach, from the Skretting Aquaculture Research Center in Norway, noted that PAPs are already widely used in aqua feeds throughout the world to replace the limited and expensive supply of fish meal, but it’s difficult to say whether European aquaculture producers will allow PAPs use in feed. He stated that nowadays, salmon diets can be formulated with five to 10 percent fish meal with the balance of the protein needed coming from vegetable and animal proteins. Fish meal use has also been significantly reduced in diets for marine fish and Skretting is working diligently on reducing fish meal in shrimp feeds as well.

Europe’s fish production is divided into three areas: salmon farming in Northern Europe, primarily Norway, Scotland, and Ireland; Mediterranean sea bass and sea bream farming; and continental aquaculture, such as fresh water trout and carp. About 2.5 million metric tons of aqua feed is produced in Europe annually and outside the region, fish meal has generally been replaced by PAPs at a ratio of 25 to 35 percent of the diet. Obach said PAPs have good digestibility but also a high variability between batches, suppliers, facilities, and methods. Therefore, a rapid (30 second), reliable, inexpensive test method to assess protein apparent digestibility coefficient is needed.

“PAPs are perhaps overregulated in the EU, but we can now use them again,” he commented, adding that PAPs are sustainable, making them “a plus-plus-plus.” However, societal issues could prevent PAPs from being used if the customer (seafood buyer) and/or consumer don’t approve. Obach mentioned there have already been some issues in the French media, but Skretting is being proactive to educate end users about the benefits and safety of PAPs. Aqua farmers are accepting of using PAPs in feed, but only if their customer is supportive. Obach predicted central and southern Europe markets will probably move faster in acceptance than Northern Europe, but Skretting will either use PAPs in all feed or not use them at all since the company does not have the capability to produce separate batches.

Researcher and feed formulator Dr. Dominique Bureau, University of Guelph in Canada, shared more information on the global aquaculture industry, which cultivates over 340 species of fish and averages an eight percent growth each year. He explained that fish require the same nutrients as other livestock animals and a number of other nutrients that are species specific. In addition, fish are born carnivorous, chasing and eating little animals.

Over the years, Bureau has seen feed formulators focus more on nutrients rather than ingredients and a shrinking price differential between PAPs and other proteins (besides fish meal) means a more competitive market for animal proteins. Nonetheless, he pointed out that PAPs are generally a cost-effective and increasingly “trusted” and “digestible” source of several key nutrients, including essential amino and fatty acids, phosphorus, micro-minerals, phospholipids, and cholesterol. Feeds for tilapia, carp, and sea bass typically contain 10 to 15 percent animal proteins.

“We are no longer in fish meal replacement mode,” Bureau announced, adding that researchers, feed manufacturers, and industry must work together to ensure fish are getting the best nutrients. He went on to say with certainty that differences in processing of feed ingredients plays a far greater role than difference in species to which the ingredients are fed, and shared these take home messages from a marine fish research project he conducted in China:

• PAPs are very valuable protein ingredients for marine fish.
• PAPs allow the formulation of cost-effective, less polluting dry feeds.
• A small amount of fish meal is still required in marine fish feeds due most likely to palatability rather than nutrient deficiency.

Dr. Charles Gooding, Clemson University in South Carolina, discussed the research partnership between the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF) and Clemson University’s Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center, to which FPRF has contributed over $2 million in research support over the years. He reported that more than 300 Clemson students have been involved in research and class projects on various topics relevant to rendering. Others have also been educated on the industry from publishing project results in various scientific journals.

Switching subjects was Mick Madsen, European Fur Breeders Association (EFBA), who tried to determine whether fur breeders are a renderer’s competitor or customer by first providing a history of the industry that began with its domestication in North America in the 1860s. At the beginning of the twentieth century, fur animal breeding was imported into Europe, which is now the largest fur producer. At 31.3 million skins, mink is the primary fur animal raised globally followed by two million fox, mainly in Finland and some eastern European countries, and 150,000 chinchilla in Denmark and again in some eastern European countries.

Europe produces 58 percent of the fur animals worldwide, Russia and Asia account for 31 percent, North America produces 10 percent, and South America and Africa round out the production at half a percent each. Madsen noted that China is increasing its fur animal production due to a strong economy and more versatile uses for fur, such as rugs and clothing collars and trim. Global fur sales were 15.6 million euro ($20 million US) in 2012, a 50 percent increase from 10 years earlier, with mink skins averaging 82 euro ($105 US), half that of fox at 160 euro. New markets for fur include Brazil and the United Arab Emirates.

Fur farming is banned in five European countries – Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands (beginning in 2024), which Madsen said is a real defeat because the Netherlands is the third largest mink producing country. He explained the bans are based on ethics (i.e., fur is an unnecessary luxury product) with 45 percent of Europeans who find fur “unacceptable” using the argument that fur animal bodies are not reused, a claim Madsen refuted. In Europe, 68 percent of carcasses are processed as category 2 material for fertilizer, biofuels, cement, and renewable energy, with the rest being incinerated or buried.

European fur animals consume two million metric tons of feed per year in the form of wet feed from cooperatives, private feed kitchens, and individual farm kitchens with the general focus on cheap ingredients as feed consumes 39 percent of production costs. Feed mix for mink consists of 30 to 32 percent protein from raw fish, fish by-products, poultry offal, fish silage, hemoglobin, meat meal, and some vegetable meal; and 51 to 55 percent fat from rapeseed oil, soybean oil, and swine fat. Madsen sees the feed challenges as being lack of a professional supply in some areas; increased competition from other industries for raw animal proteins, especially rendering; hygiene and diseases; legislation; and transportation.

Madsen provided the EFBA’s outlook as ultimately having 100 percent of fur animal carcasses collected to assist with consumer perception, raise quality levels of European fur production through professional feed suppliers, and look at alternative feed sources such as dry feed that could solve some logistic problems. The concern with the first goal is that many renderers do not have category 2 capabilities.

EFPRA wrapped up the day with its board and general meetings, where it was announced that the organization is requesting the European Commission (EC) keep double-counting for tallow methyl esters as an advanced biofuel under the Renewable Energy Directive until new rules kick in; the commission received 500 proposed amendments to the directive. Regarding further relaxation of the feed ban, EFPRA Secretary General Dirk Dobbelaere said the EC has drafted a proposal and will vote this fall on allowing poultry PAPs in swine feed. If passed, the new regulation could go into effect July 2014.

Alm mentioned that the decision to allow importation of category 1 animal fat for biofuels that is not pressure sterilized is at a very high government level. He is a little hopeful the situation can be resolved possibly within the next year.

The second day of the congress began with Dr. Milan Malena, director of the Czech Republic veterinary office, discussing the country’s animal health, which is free of most animal diseases except avian influenza and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The Czech Republic has had 30 cases of BSE, with the last one detected in May 2009, giving the country “controlled risk” status. Malena praised the successful cooperation between the Czech veterinary office and rendering industry during an avian influenza outbreak in 2007 when over 170,000 poultry were culled.

Dr. Vaclav Jordan, president of the Czech Rendering Association, described the very beginnings of the industry, which dates back to the late 1800s, and its then “destructor” technology. Today, the country’s industry is very modern but small with eight private rendering plants. Since 2001, 1.8 million head of cattle have been inspected for BSE at a cost of $2.9 million per detected case.

“Past experience confirms that there is only one way to ensure the infections-free environment for humans and animals: a highly-developed system of veterinary services and rendering services operated under the most strict conditions and standards,” Jordan stated.

Ladislav Mika, deputy director general for the food chain at the EC’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers, updated the group on a number of legislative activities. He began by declaring that tallow imports are a difficult area for the EC, but the United States (US) is a very important trading partner. The commission has tried to convince its “partner across the ocean” that Europe never goes beyond the framework of existing regulation. Preliminary discussions indicate there is no easy solution at this time.

Switching focus, Mika noted that legislation has had a very positive impact on BSE over the past 12 years, with protection of consumers being the primary goal (in 2001, there were 2,166 cases of BSE in the EU; in 2012, there were only 18). Still, the issue remains highly political and sensitive as the region moves forward with reintroducing PAPs in animal feed. He reiterated that animal proteins can now be used in aquaculture feeds with a real-time polymerase chain reaction test method approved for detecting ruminant DNA in feedstuffs. The EC is encouraging member states to issue severe punishment on those not complying with current regulation. The next step is to prepare further measures to reintroduce poultry PAPs for pigs in 2014, then propose pig PAPs be allowed in poultry feed beginning in 2015. Mika stressed that the EC does not intend to use ruminant proteins in non-ruminant feed or feed any PAPs to ruminants.

Other regulations the EC is currently working on include one on animal health to protect animals, people, and the economy from transmissible animal diseases and epidemics with the mindset that prevention is better than cure. The rule will harmonize some 72 current food chain regulations and have little impact on renderers. Mika revealed that the EC is working very intensively on “wasted food” with a sustainable food initiative expected by the end of this year.

Albert Vernooij, Rabobank International, discussed how European renderers can capitalize on global developments. He remarked that the food supply chain is under unprecedented pressure to feed nine billion people, and a growing middle class is resulting in surging meat demand, mostly in Asia and South America. Vernooij declared that the growth of EU meat production is lagging behind developments in China, Brazil, and the United States. He predicted US beef production will come back most likely in 2015, but the EU will continue to decline. The top four global poultry markets are the United States, China, Brazil, and the EU. In the global pork market, China dominates while Europe is stable.

“What happens in China impacts the world,” Vernooij announced.

Despite pressure on biofuels mandates across the globe, he believes biofuels are here to stay. He expects a cap of five percent on first-generation feedstocks for biofuels in Europe will roughly double the usage of second-generation feedstocks until 2020, creating opportunity for tallow. Vernooij also stated that global meat and bone meal demand is on the rise, especially in China.

EFPRA will hold its next congress June 4-7, 2014, in Stockholm, Sweden.


August 2013 RENDER | back