Animal Feed: Why It's Vital to Humans Too
Thu, October 21, 2021

Animal Feed: Why It's Vital to Humans Too

Animal feeding practices have been introduced, developed, refined, and changed over the past century, dating as far back as the 1800s. It was during that time that the significance of balanced diets and nutrients among humans and animals began as mainstream ideology /Photo by: Tewan Yangmee via 123RF

 

Have you ever wondered what the animals we eat eat? What do we feed to food-production animals or livestock? Animal feeding practices have been introduced, developed, refined, and changed over the past century, dating as far back as the 1800s. It was during that time that the significance of balanced diets and nutrients among humans and animals began as mainstream ideology. With a variety of livestock, such as ducks, cows, chickens, horses, and pigs, there must also be a variety of feeds to accommodate individual needs.

All About Feeds

Feed, also called animal feed, is food produced for the consumption of livestock and poultry. This is created by selecting and blending ingredients to form a highly nutritious meal that will help maintain the health of animals and increase the quality of end products and byproducts such as meat, milk, and eggs. Animals require the same nutrients as humans, but some feed such as grass, hay, silage crops, and cereal crops are grown specifically for them. Sugar, beet pulp, brewers’ grains, and pineapple bran are byproducts that remain after the crop has been processed for human use. Food crops such as wheat, cereals, fruits, vegetables, and roots may also be fed to animals.

The beginning of the history of feeds is difficult to pinpoint, but nomadic people are reported to have fed natural animal feeds to their herds and flocks. The first scientific record evaluating animals was believed to have been made in 1809 by a German agriculturist, Albrecht von Thaer, who developed the “hay values” to measure the nutritive content of feed. Basic nutrients in feeds include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Today, many kinds of feed exist, with a certain mixture of crops and often formulated to specifically suit the animal.

Feed, also called animal feed, is food produced for the consumption of livestock and poultry / Photo by: Tanong Abhivadanasiri via 123RF

 

Feed Industry Statistics

Livestock raising and consumption and all other animal products are part of crucial contributions to the economic and nutritional well-being of millions of people around the world. According to the International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF), “Feed is the largest and most important component to ensuring safe, abundant, and affordable animal proteins.” World feed production has reached an estimated 1 billion tons annually, with global commercial feed manufacturing generating an estimated annual turnover of $400 billion in more than 130 countries and employing thousands of individuals. 

From statistics as presented by the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), the economic impact of animal feed and pet food manufacturing in the United States for 2016 is that the industry generated 944,227 jobs, $297.1 billion in total sales, $102 billion in value added, $55.9 billion in wages, and $22.5 billion in local national taxes. The data shared also showed that there are 5,715 animal feed mills and 517 pet food mills in the US during that time. The amount of animal feed consumed in 2016 was revealed as follows: beef cattle was 74.7 million tons of the total amount of feeds, 56.3 million tons of broiler chickens (or those chicken raised solely for meat), 46.4 million tons of hogs, 23.8 million tons of dairy cattle, 16.4 million tons of layers, 9.9 million tons of turkeys, 8 million tons of horses, 0.7 million tons of aquaculture, and 0.2 million tons of sheep. Of the top livestock, AFIA shared that the majority of their diet includes corn, soybean meals, and dried and wet distiller’s grains. Smaller diet composition includes bakery meals, corn gluten feeds, cottonseed meals, wheat midds, grain sorghum, soybean hulls, oats, and others.

Livestock raising and consumption and all other animal products are part of crucial contributions to the economic and nutritional well-being of millions of people around the world / Photo by: Torwai Suebsri via 123RF

 

The feed industry is a huge market, with a global0 demand. In order for livestock to grow, they need to be fed with nutritious and safe food. In the US, the total value of exports reached $13.1 billion in 2016. The top exports were soybean meals worth $4 billion with a volume of 10.2 metric tons and corn coproducts worth $3.2 billion with a volume of 13.9 metric tons. Feed export destinations were Mexico, Canada, Japan, the European Union, and China—those countries attributed to large populations and have businesses involving meat products. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that the world will have to produce 60% more food by 2050, given the ever-increasing human population and need for food, with animal protein production such as meat or poultry, swine, and beef set to double, while dairy and fish production set to triple.

Among the challenges posed by the 1 billion tons of feed produced by the industry, 300 million tons of feed is produced by on-farm mixing. This is rarely inspected by food authorities as it is only done when there has been a reported problem.

It is vital that the whole feed and food chain observe certain standards to control and manage the safety and nutrition of food. More than this, there is a vital need for sustainability across the whole chain amidst a growing population and the need for more livestock.