The feed industry is currently looking for efficacious, safe and cost-efficient additives with a clearly defined mode of action and proven benefits. Plant-derived (i.e. phytogenic) compounds have a considerable potential to fulfill this demand.
Driven by the European ban of antibiotic growth promoters in 2006, phytogenic feed additives have been gaining increasing attention in livestock feeding in the last few years. More and more commercial products are available on the market and it is expected that the use of these additives will increase even more in the future.
The term “phytogenics”, also referred to as botanicals or phytobiotics, describes plant-derived compounds incorporated in animal feed to improve productivity of livestock through amelioration of feed properties and promotion of the animal’s production performance. Phytogenics include a broad range of plant materials, most of which have a long history in human nutrition, where they have been used as flavours, food preservatives and medicines since ancient times. These plant materials usually contain a cocktail of numerous different active principles (e.g. eugenol, cinnamaldehyde, carvacrol or thymol), which all play together to determine a specific flavor or scent. Indeed, phytogenics are commonly known for their flavouring properties, thus having impact on the palatability of diets. On the other hand, phytogenics exert a range of distinct biological activities, therefore having the potential to positively affect gut health and increase performance.
The in vitro antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant and other activities of phytogenic compounds are well described and backed up by numerous scientific reports. In the meanwhile, an increasing number of studies addressing the gastrointestinal effects of phytogenics under in vivo conditions, i.e. in animal feeding experiments, are available. The intestinal microflora, gut morphology, gastric emptying, activity of endogenous digestive secretions and, finally, performance parameters are considered to be influenced by dietary phytogenics.
A systematic assessment of the potential efficacies of phytogenics has been difficult due to the fact that the majority of in vivo trials were carried out using commercial phytogenic additives, which, in most cases, were blends of several plant extracts, hence representing a mixture of different active ingredients. Only a minor portion of trials used single phytogenic compounds such as pure carvacrol or thymol or a chemically defined essential oil.
As other feed additives, phytogenics need to fulfill strict registration guidelines in respect to safety and efficacy for the animal, the consumer and the environment. The risk of residues in animal tissues and development of bacterial resistance associated with the application of phytogenic feed additives is considered to be much lower in comparison with the use of conventional antibiotics.
The implementation of new technologies, such as encapsulation of active ingredients, is considered to further improve the efficacy of phytogenic feed additives.
The new product innovation – P.E.P. MGE will be launched during the VIV Utrecht 2010.
Get more information during the Meat Safety Conference and at the BIOMIN booth – Hall 9 A040.