Food for Feed

Circularity in feed production is a concept that is still being defined. An initiative that is growing amongst feed producers, is the use of residual streams, or so-called by-products, from the food, beverage and fermentation industry. The European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC) has defined food by-products as ‘non-food-grade ingredient recovered as a secondary raw material from the (local) circular economy with a low land use footprint’…

Evelien van Donselaar
Business Manager Food2Feed
Selko Feed Additives

Circular food production is an emerging concept within the complex food production landscape. Compared to traditional linear models, a circular food system should integrate incoming and outgoing materials into an endless loop. Only through strong collaboration between stakeholders can the industry optimize this infinite loop of efficient, sustainable food production and work towards a new circular approach to feeding the future.

The topic of food production is covered in the media daily, given its significant impact on the environment, habitat and human health. Transparency and traceability are of vital importance as circular food systems aim for minimal nutrient loss along the chain. While the media, often describe circularity as a prescription for a sustainable future, what exactly is a circular food system? And what role can the animal feed production chain play in supporting circularity?

Circularity in feed production is a concept that is still being defined. An initiative that is growing amongst feed producers, is the use of residual streams, or so-called by-products, from the food, beverage and fermentation industry. The European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC) has defined food by-products as ‘non-food-grade ingredient recovered as a secondary raw material from the (local) circular economy with a low land use footprint’.

Since food and beverages are generally produced locally or regionally, there is a global supply of these non-food-grade ingredients. Upcycling these by-products to become available as a valuable nutrient source for feed requires smooth collaboration and cooperation between industry partners.

In 2021, the Netherlands provided 5.415 million metric tons of high-moisture by-products to act as feed ingredients for the agricultural industry (OPNV, 2022). Converted to dry feed ingredients, this accounts for 1.25 million metric ton of feed materials. Though this is a big volume, a significant amount of nutritional and digestible by-products continues to be used for energy production. In light of today’s volatile energy markets, allocating by-products toward energy production might seem a suitable purpose. But it also is important to keep in mind the food waste framework where reusing materials has priority over recovery (Figure 1). Safety is always a top priority across the food product chain and reusing by-products within the food-to-feed chain often comes with microbial or regulatory challenges that must be addressed.

Figure 1. Food waste framework. Source: European commission.
Figure 2. Dose response testing confirmed the most cost-effective solution. After day 7 the control sample was deemed unfit for feeding due to pungent smell, indicating complete microbial wastage.
Therefore, it was taken out of the study.

New opportunities to leverage circularity keep being developed. A collaboration between Noblesse Proteins BV in the Netherlands, Looop and Selko Feed Additives offers a good example. The initiative diverted a by-product from Noblesse from biogas production towards feed ingredients, by implementing effective feed safety and shelf-life solutions. Edwin Huisken, Product developer at Noblesse mentions: ‘For Noblesse, it is important to make all incoming proteins available to the feed market rather than supplying them to the bio-energy industry’. In running various dose-response tests with preservatives, Noblesse selected Selko Revalet Super to provide the most cost-effective and broad-spectrum results (Figure 2). ‘With Selko Revalet Super, we found a high efficacy when applied in lower dosages. The product helps to preserve the nutritional value of our by-products,’ Huisken added.

In addition to the safety aspect, preserving nutritional value is the main focus in keeping by-products available for feed production. As microbes consume nutrients at an accelerating speed, deactivating them as early as possible is of key importance. Besides treating products with Selko Revalet, Noblesse collaborated with Looop, a company specialising in extracting the maximum value from by-products that originate from food and the fermentation industry. Following the so-called ‘Looop Ladder’, the company turns by-products into alternative resources for, amongst others, the animal feed industry. The company offers circular ingredients for the pet food industry and feed for insects. Also, by-products are used to produce sustainable energy and innovative bio-based products.

Kelly Vermeer, Manager Quality, Nutrition & Sustainability at Looop mentions: ‘Through the collaboration with Noblesse Proteins and Selko Feed Additives, we took a shared step towards infinity in the food production system’.

As interest in precision feeding grows, the feed industry is seeking to gain more precise insights into the nutritional value of by-products. Once the nutritional value of a by-product is determined, it becomes clear how much value can be preserved for the feed production chain. On average, the nutritional value of by-products is tested four to eight times per year by wet chemistry analysis.

A more reliable and faster solution is supplied through Near-infrared (NIR) Spectroscopy. NIR provides results within one minute but requires calibration lines to provide a reliable result. Looop was able to utilize the largest NIR calibration database within the industry, managed by Masterlab in the Netherlands. In collaboration with Looop, Masterlab created calibration lines for four major by-products categories. A significant number of samples from Looop helped determine the calibration lines for brewer’s spent yeast, wheat yeast concentrate, wheat starch and potato steam peels. Creating the calibration lines allows Looop to analyse all truck loads. The outcomes are uploaded in a database called NutriMonitor and can be a translated to nutrient and energy values using NutriCalculator based on the Dutch CVB* Feed Table. This creates an up-to-date and reliable feed ingredient matrix, enabling farmers to maximize the utilisation of by-products in feed rations.

Examples like these described here are becoming more common in the Western parts of Europe. In other, less developed, parts of the globe by-products are generally not valued nor utilised and regularly end up in landfills. Roughly one-third of the global food production is lost between field and fork. This poses a significant gap between current production and the 2050 food requirements set by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

Connecting the food and beverage industry with the agricultural industry presents an opportunity to address the gap between today’s feed production levels and the future’s projected food requirements. Selko Feed Additives is running various initiatives in different parts of the world, in an effort to preserve valuable nutrient sources and utilise them within animal feed. As per the company’s purpose Feeding the Future, these efforts aim to produce more sustainable animal protein to feed the growing world population.

Location influences where food waste occurs in the production chain. In more industrialized areas, these losses mainly occur in the chain from processor to the consumer’s plate. In more developed areas losses arise between the field and the food processors.

Collaboration, thoughtful efforts to preserve nutrients and careful attention to preserving safety can help stakeholders produce safe, affordable food and help feed the future.

*CVB stands for ‘Centraal Veevoerder Bureau’ and is the Dutch central bureau for feed. The core activity of CVB is to evaluate feedstuffs for farm animals and to establish energy and nutrient requirements for farm animals.

About Evelien van Donselaar
Evelien van Donselaar, Business Manager Food2Feed at Selko Feed Additives, focuses on providing practical solutions for- and creating connections within- the food and feed industry. She is responsible for Selko Revalet®, a product portfolio that reduces microbial challenges from the source, preserving nutritional value of by-products. Her animal healthcare background and extensive experience in working for innovative companies focusing on production of alternative proteins, as well as a passion for upcycling by-products, allow her to think out of the box and support the company’s purpose of Feeding the Future.