By Rachael Porter
Pig processed animal protein could find its way back into poultry rations, after the European Commission said that it would start a process to potentially approve such a move.
But, according to the British Poultry Council (BPC), it could be several years before it’s given the ‘green light’, if it does indeed get the European seal of approval. And, even then, it will be subject to strict testing and regulations.
Processed animal protein (PAP) was banned in ruminant diets in the EU in 1994, as a result of the BSE crisis. In 2001 the law was expanded to ban feeding of all PAP to all farm animals. “Re-introduction will be a lengthy process and will require details on regulations and testing to prevent, for example, cross contamination,” says BPC’s Shraddha Kaul.
For this reason, she told Poultry Business, the BPC is yet to take a position on this issue, because it’s a considerable way off being approved and re-introduced.
“It’s a long process and it won’t be straight forward. I think we’re looking at several years. There are many questions that need to be addressed, such as the testing procedure to ensure that there’s no cross contamination and that quality standards are met.”
NFU’s senior European policy adviser Katie Jarvis says that for the three years she’s been based in Brussels the commission has been talking about re-introducing pig and poultry PAPs into poultry feed: “And for quite a while before that. But there’s still no clear indication of when this could be made possible.
“If it were, it would be approved at EU level and then it would be up to individual member states to enable it. The UK is in an interesting position in this regard, because as it is a food safety issue I don’t know whether the UK would follow European food safety advice or carry out its own tests,” she adds.
Jarvis says that the problem has always been identifying different PAP species in a sample, which is essential to ensure that poultry PAPs are not fed to poultry, for example. “In May, the DG Santé Advisory Group suggested that pig PAPs would be allowed in poultry feed by the end of 2019/beginning of 2020.
“However, a few days later, Copa Cogeca contacted the EU commission for more details and it turns out the EU Reference Laboratory is still having problems developing molecular tests capable of separating the different PAPs species, so it was likely to delay the authorisation.
“I haven’t heard anything further and we never had official confirmation that authorisation would go ahead so I assume this is still frozen,” she says.
“At this point, it’s not even known if the technology is there to check to contamination,” adds Kaul. “And then there’s consumer perception and reaction to consider.
“How will retailers and their customers see the reintroduction of PAP? And how will retailers want to play it, in terms of product labelling?
“There are, for example, many consumers who will eat eggs and chicken but, sometimes for religious reasons, they won’t eat pork. So how does this sit with poultry products from birds that have been fed diets containing PAP?”
There are so many things to be considered – which is why it will take a long time to get approval and, if granted, for pig PAP to be re-introduced into poultry rations.
And, she adds, an alternative source to replace ‘expensive’ and less digestible soya protein is already in the process of being approved for poultry use – insect protein. “And this is likely to happen before pig PAP gains approval, if it indeed does.
“Insect protein is perceived as less controversial and there will be, due to its nature, be fewer regulatory barriers to its approval and introduction to poultry diets.
Copa Cogeca board chairman and Gloucestershire-based poultry producer Charles Bourns says that re-introducing pig PAP has been tabled for many years at its meetings. “And we welcomed news that the EC has now agreed to consider legislation to allow the re-introduction of pig PAP into poultry diets because it has a better feed value than vegetable-based proteins and also reduces the industry’s reliance on like soya.”
Since it was removed from poultry diets – along with other animal derived proteins – more than 25 years ago, all protein in poultry rations has been vegetable based.
“I’m confident that re-introduction will be allowed. What’s changed is that feed mills are now species specific, so cross contamination should no longer be an issue.
“There’s less risk, for example, that pig feed might be contaminated with pig PAP as poultry feed is produced on a separate site. We now have dedicated mills for either pig or poultry feed in the UK.
“That wasn’t the case several years ago, with multi-species mills being the norm.”
He says that the protein in pig PAP will be more readily available to the bird. “In fact, I’d go as far as to say that adding it to poultry rations will go a long way towards solving some of the nutritional, health and welfare problems seen in many flocks,” says Bourns.
“The switch away from vegetable protein will also reduce the industry’s reliance on soya – better for margins and the environment as this has to be shipped from considerable distances to the UK.
“The birds are also carnivorous by their nature. And their welfare will, undoubtedly, benefit from the addition of a source of animal protein.
“I believe that, when diets change from vegetable to animal protein that some of the health and welfare problems, such as feather pecking, will be reduced.”
He adds that birds struggle to utilise vegetable protein – much of it is excreted as nitrogen and urea. “So, feeding PAP will also, potentially, be better for the environment. Making use of what is, essentially, a waste product and reducing the use of expensive, imported soya that’s not an ‘efficient’ source of protein in poultry rations, makes sense.”
This reintroduction, if it happen, will, however, be a ‘big deal’. “And the big question is whether retailers, or more importantly consumers, will accept it,” acknowledges Bourns. “That’s the acid test. I think producers will welcome it – it has to be better for bird health and welfare. And it’ll also improve productivity and margin, in my opinion.”
Bourns predicts ‘a big hoo-ha’: “I think about 95% of consumers will accept it. But the remaining 5% will be extremely loud in their protests. It’ll be a similar situation to when people objected to GM soya. But when non-GM soya was in short supply it soon quietened down.”
He says that others will have a vested interest in opposing the re-introduction of PAP – notably the companies who have developed, manufacture and sell enzymes that help birds to better utilise vegetable proteins and cereals in poultry rations.
“The poultry industry also has a vested interest in seeing a return of pig PAP in rations. It could then lead to the reintroduction of poultry PAP in other livestock diets and there’s a significant global market for that, which the UK poultry industry could exploit.
“If we could get a licence to produce poultry PAP, that market in the EU alone could be worth up to £0.5bn per year. That’s not to be sniffed at, when poultry producer margins are being continually squeezed.”
So, he can certainly see plenty of positives. “And the only potential ‘negative’ or hurdle is consumer resistance. I really can’t see any downsides – certainly not from a bird or producer point of view. But consumers may simply refuse to accept its re-introduction to poultry diets. And I’m not really sure how that can be overcome.”