Converting food chain losses into feed chain resources

In many food and non-food processing operations of raw materials there is more than one product to be obtained. Usually, the primary processing of a raw material results in co-products, which carry a high nutritional value. For example, brewer’s grain results from the processing of malt in the beer industry, sugar beet pulp is the co-product of sugar production from sugar beet, rapeseed meal results from rapeseed oil production and corn gluten feed and distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) are the main co-products of wet-milling of maize grain for starch and bioethanol production.

 With the right knowledge and skills, these co-products, which are food grade but not used for human consumption by convenience or lack of market, can be upgraded into high quality animal feed. Each year, the EU feed industry utilises up to approximately 90 million tonnes of several hundreds of different types of co-products in animal feed. The feed industry thus creates a sustainable outlet for processing industries that are left with a secondary resource. Better said, without the demand for DDGS and rapeseed meal by the animal feed industry, the bioenergy industry would not be a viable economic sector. The constant challenge for the feed industry is to continue investigating the nutritional value of new co-products that could be utilised as a feed material for farm animal feeding purposes.

The feed industry is thus able, through its expertise in resource efficiency, to play a key role in utilising co-products generated by food chain operators other than primary processing, i.e. the manufacturing of final food to consumers. In these industries, certain foodstuffs manufactured with the intention to be sold on the human consumption market, may no longer be suitable for direct human consumption and therefore end up as secondary resources of the food industry. Nowadays, broken biscuits, misshaped chocolates, under-flavoured crisps or surplus bread are just a few of the over 3 million tonnes of so-called former foodstuffs that are being utilised in animal feed. Former foodstuffs with a high content of energy, in the form of sugar, oil or starch, are processed by specialized companies who provide compound feed manufacturers with an alternative energy-rich feed material source containing a nutritional profile that is roughly equivalent to grains. Because of the significant nutritional value, co-products utilised in animal feed should never be regarded as waste materials by any means, also because the requirements as regards traceability and safety apply just as for any other feed material.

By valorising co-products and by-products from other sectors, the feed industry contributes to the stated EU objective for the reduction of food waste. As can be seen in the food waste hierarchy, animal feed is the most sustainable outlet for products that are no longer suitable for human consumption. This also applies to native cereals in case they do not meet the quality standards of human food production, for example due to bad growing or harvest conditions, but remain perfectly suitable for cattle feed.



 See document below for FEFAC’s position on the valorisation of former foodstuffs in feed

  • Food use vs. feed use ratio
  • WRAP Food & Drink Material Hierarchy