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Functional Additives
Friday, October 7, 2005 5:20:04 PM
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Bringing food to the table and profit to the farm

Lucy Tucker, Consulting Nutritionist with Cundy Technical Services, New Zealand



Feeding the world tomorrow

Much is written in the global media, from regular newspapers to specialist animal feed and production magazines, regarding how to best feed, house and grow animals for meat and egg production. Many of these articles are directed at first-world farmers, food retailers and consumers, primarily concerned with reducing the use of artificial substances and drugs in feed or improving welfare, disease status and capitalising on marketing opportunities. Often, the stark realities prevalent in poorer countries needing to feed their citizens are ignored, apart from within the context of direct financial aid. In fact, modern efficient farming and novel feed ingredients are essential if we are to sustain human life and health, particularly in third-world countries where human life expectancy is short and basic nutritional requirements are often not attained.


Such topics formed the basis of a recent presentation made by Professor Mingan Choct, recipient of Alltech's Medal of Excellence for 2005. In his opening comments, Prof. Choct detailed the startling statistics regarding growth of the human population in relation to food production: three extra people are born and one hectare of arable farmland is lost every seven seconds, and chronic malnourishment affects 800 million people, representing one third of the population in sub-Saharan Africa.


What we eat directly reflects our economic status, with poultry meat and eggs playing a key role in protein supply, especially in the poorest countries. As societies become more affluent, they increase the amount of meat and eggs eaten, and consume proportionally more red meat. For example, in developing countries, meat consumption has increased by 6 percent per annum in the past decade (FAO, 2004), with a three-fold increase in poultry consumption per capita since 1960 (Figure 1).


Figure 1. The Chinese meat consumption revolution



The major problem behind this is that grain production per capita (heavily reliant on the availability of large areas of suitable high quality land) has not changed during this time (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Protein intake compared with grain production per capita from 1961 to 2001


    •  Importance of poultry in developing countries

In humans, as in other animals, energy is the main limiting factor in nutrition. But in order to grow and develop correctly, protein must be supplied in the correct balance to facilitate growth, health and reproduction. Irrespective of the various trends in vegetarianism in richer countries, most cultures rely on the high quality, easily digested protein obtained from eggs and chicken meat to satisfy a person's nutritional requirements, especially for growing children. Poultry, whether for meat or eggs, represents an efficient method of protein production, well suited to most areas of the world. Indeed, efforts to increase both commercial and small scale poultry farming are encouraged by international bodies and charities to improve the situation of people living in the 'third world'.


If the global population is to be stabilised into a healthy, self-sufficient group, then correct nutrition is vital, as is the supply of good quality, balanced protein foods. In India, where such changes are already happening, it is predicted that by 2050, every citizen will be consuming 25.5 kg more meat than the current 5.5 kg per capita. This will undoubtedly help the health of the Indian nation, but where is the grain going to come from to produce this protein?

    • Ensuring feed raw material supply

Animal feed supply is a problem exacerbated by the recent trend for relying on high quality maize and soymeal for diet formulations. Such raw materials typically require transport, and may be subject to import taxes, increasing the cost of poultry production to levels out of reach for poorer farmers and consumers.


One way to overcome such problems is by using non-conventional ingredients, such as coconut, sunflower, palm kernel and peanut meals as well as by-products from other industries, in animal feed. Cheaper, local ingredients typically have higher levels of fibre and anti-nutritional factors, and can have poor pelleting quality. These problems can be improved by extra processing, or through supplementation with specialised ingredients that destroy anti-nutritional factors.


Other factors include the control of moulds and subsequent mycotoxin contamination, which may be difficult to achieve in countries with high humidity or poor harvest and storage facilities. Most monogastric species are particularly susceptible to anti-nutritional factors, and lack enzymes to digest fibre.


Prof Choct estimates that there are over 500 million tonnes of high fibre raw materials available for animal feed that are currently poorly utilised, and inefficiently digested. By the application of specialist feed enzymes, it is possible to maximise the nutrients available from poorer quality non-conventional ingredients, allowing cheaper, more efficient egg and meat production. This would ultimately improve the supply and reduce the cost of protein to the end customer.


Figure 3. Micrograph of plant material with (right) and without (left) enzyme supplementation



    • Alternative raw materials 

Several alternatives to soybeans and maize exist, many of which have been evaluated for their nutritional value in animals, and their potential for improvement with feed enzymes. The major alternatives were reviewed by Prof. Choct and are presented in Table 1 below. These materials can offer good levels of nutrition, but often require suitable enzyme supplementation to achieve this.


Table 1. Alternative Feed Raw Materials


Raw material

Production ('000 tonnes/year)

Useful nutrients

Anti-nutritional factors

Potential solutions



20% protein

>45% NSP (DM)

A.niger enzymes

high arginine


Palm kernel meal


16% protein

>60% NSP

Glycanase enzymes



~45% protein


Low sulphur amino acids

<30% NSP




Good protein levels and amino acids


Xylanase and protease enzymes


Poor lysine



16% protein

Poor amino acid balance

Not known

high arginine

Roots & tubers*


85% starch

Contains cyanide and other toxins, so requires careful preparation

Not known

 * Includes cassava, manioc, tapioca, mandioca

    • Improving nutritional value with enzymes

A recent innovation that has contributed much to the improved digestion and utilisation of both common and alternative raw materials, is the production of enzymes through solid-state fermentation (SSF). This method, originally devised in Asia 4,000 years ago, involves growing the source fungus directly on the feed substrate, thereby allowing the organism to secrete enzymes appropriate to the feed. This facilitates the production of enzymes naturally adapted to specific substrates, making feed supplementation much more efficient.


Trials have been conducted examining the benefits of enzymes for alternative feed materials, such as copra meal, palm kernel meal and distillers grains (see Tables 3 and 4 and Figure 4), yielding results which demonstrate that as well as maintaining performance in birds fed diets formulated with cheaper raw materials. Other benefits are also available. For example, SSF enzymes can improve nitrogen retention (and hence lean gain) in broiler chickens fed distillers grains to the same or even higher level compared with a control corn-soy based diet.


Table 2. SSF enzymes significantly improve FCR and digestibility in 5-15 d broilers fed 40 percent palm kernel meal (Sundu et al, 2005)




Allzyme SSF

Weight gain (g)






NDF digestibility (%)




Table 3. Combined feed enzymes significantly improve performance and digestibility in 4-14 d broilers fed 40 percent palm kernel meal (Sundu et al, 2004)




Combined enzymes

(including SSF)

Weight gain (g)






DM digestibility (%)




Figure 4. Effect of SSF enzymes (Allzyme DDG) on nitrogen redigestibilitytention  in broiler chicks fed diets containing 30 percent DDGS


Prof. Choct also discussed groundbreaking research into the combined benefits of enzymes and microwave energy. It has been found that the efficacy of fibre-degrading enzymes is limited by the speed in which they break down substrate, such as NSP, in the gut. Exposing enzymes to specific microwave energy has been shown to potentiate enzyme activity, leading to increased fibre degradation (Figure 5).


Figure 5. Combined benefits of enzymes and microwave treatment on fibre degradation


The products of fibre digestion may be of additional benefits to animals, acting as pre-biotics in the case of certain low molecular weight carbohydrates. These have been shown in several published research papers to promotecolonisation of the gut by beneficial bacteria, out competing pathogenic strains.


At the end of his address, Professor Choct emphasised the importance of using novel technologies to ensure less feed waste and better animal production, allowing us in future, to meet the demands of our growing world population. "Globally, there is in excess of 500 million tonnes of alternative or under-utilised feed raw materials", he concluded "which, if used correctly, could result in an extra 100 million tonnes of meat per annum". Food for thought in an increasingly populated world.



Sundu, B., Kumar, A. & Dingle, J. (2004). The effect of levels of Copra meal and enzymes on bird performance. Proc. Aust. Poult. Sci. Symposium 16: 52-53.

Sundu, B., Kumar, A. & Dingle, J. (2005).Response of birds fed increasing levels of palm kernel meal supplemented with different enzymes. Aust. Poult. Sci. Sym. 17:227-228

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