Expert opinion

8 commentslast update:6 Aug 2012

Garlic – healthy, but pricy!

The common cold, flu, acne and high cholesterol levels can all be cured, it is claimed, by one thing, GARLIC!! So if it is good for humans, why not for animals?

Naturally found growing in many regions of the world, herbalists everywhere consider garlic to be one of the most important and effective medicinal herbs. It has been used as both food and medicine in many cultures for thousands of years, which has been confirmed in over 3,000 publications.

So if it is good for humans, why not for animals?
A lot of research has been or is being conducted in the area of using plant extracts – including garlic - in animal feed. Most recently, scientists in Wales UK found that garlic could cut methane emissions in cattle by up to 50%. This is good news for the environment, but purity and price of garlic products are still issues to overcome.

 Active compounds
Although the effects shown in humans and the potential in animals are clear, proper use of garlic in animal nutrition is not as easy as it seems. It is not just a matter of simply crushing a few garlic cloves and putting them in the feed. The active compounds, the sulfides need to be extracted and concentrated, which is a time consuming and costly procedure.

The process starts with the crushing of the garlic cloves, this makes the cells release the enzyme allicinase. Allicinase is very important in turning alliinase into allicin, a very active compound of garlic. Although allicin was long thought to be the most active compound, it is actually an intermediate compound which is converted over time to the actual active components, the diallyl sulfides . By soaking the garlic in an extraction solution several times, a concentrated form can be obtained; this can range from a 70% pure form to a 100% pure form. These active compounds are highly volatile, so an encapsulation system is needed to retain the active ingredients.

Side effects
It all sounds very nice, using garlic in animal feed, but one major constraint in using it on a commercial level in the feed mill is the smell and the strength of the active ingredients. Purified garlic components are so strong, that you feel as if your eyeballs are falling out, when working with it. In addition, feed lines have to be cleaned intensively when garlic is used (like producing a feed batch with medicines). The strength of the active components also prevents its use as a top dressing in animal diets, because the strong ingredients kill the other additives (such as vitamins) in the feed.

Another major issue is the residues in the animal products. Obviously you don't want the milk or meat tainted with a garlic smell. Of course this depends on the level of garlic you feed. However, studies in dairy cows showed that ten times the normal amount doesn't leave residues in milk samples. Taste tests by panels of experts also showed no organoleptic changes. The taste of milk is more easily affected by changes in raw materials (such as different sources of maize, soy, etc because they are at a higher level). Work from the University of Leeds and Rosen et al. (2001) has shown that diallyl disulfide is not what is found in breath, meaning that the cows will not stink from this part of the body!

€200 per kilogram!
Most of the practical limitations can be overcome. However, the price of garlic still prevents its commercial take-off. Although the price of garlic based products really depends on the purity of garlic source, it ranges from €10 per kg (which is just macerated garlic dissolved in soy oil) to €200-300 per kg (purified form).

The amount of garlic you need to add depends on the species and the type (purity) of garlic, but in general the inclusion levels are quite small. There are conflicting studies because many trials have not looked at the composition of the garlic administered. However, it is recommended to use a 7% inclusion rate for 70% pure form and 5% when using a 100% pure product.

At the moment there are many suppliers of garlic based products, most of then are found in China and Turkey (areas with high garlic production). The problem is purity and standardisation of the garlic extract. Many suppliers don’t standardise their product in active ingredients, but just jump on the garlic bandwagon to profit from the increased interest in garlic. Some products may be cheaper than the standardised, concentrated form, but the question is whether you will fully use the potential of this 'wonder drug' by going for the cheap option.


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    Hmmm. Not quite sure that you don't want meat to be tainted with garlic. I actually think that might be quite a good marketing ploy, selling beef from cows that have been fed garlic.

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    I am a fan of garlic's attributes and I find its beneficial impact on global warming to be particular interesting. But, unlike Ronzer, I prefer that an encapsulated additive act in the rumen and leave it up to me to add the amount of garlic that I want at the dinner table.

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    Mike Spandern

    The challenge for the feed producers is to have standardised solutions. What about resistance, consistency, traceability, product specs...etc.

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    Dr. A Y Rajendra

    Its quite interesting, in India farmers are already using this product in poultry. Pods of garlic are mashed in a mixer and are added to drinking water in poultry. This is supposed to decrease the respiratory syptoms in broilers suffering from mild IB or ND infections.

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    Garlic ham What will the public think of this. Will it taint the pig meat, Some fish products taint the meat already so this might not be such a good idea in the pig industry

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    Raúl López,

    We are testing two molecules of garlic (PTS and PTSO) in piglets and growing pigs, sea bream and catle. Our results are promising. In pigs, increase feed intake, less FCR, significative better growth and a better health status, specially in GIT health. Our experimental product combined this group of molecules with FOS.
    All molecules are termoresistant and we can guarantee the traceability of the molecules in all the feed production process with laboratory trials for clients. In monogastrics the tendence seems to be similar and in ruminants the most important effect is a better digestibility may be thanks to a decreasing levels of methanogenic microorganism.

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    Hossan Md. Salim

    Garlic have so many good quality for human health. So, It will be also a good food for animal also but wwe have to consider its price benifits otherwise it will not attractive feed by the animal farmer. So. We have to increase its production and try to minimize its price as low as possible.

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    Cr David M Williams

    I would like to correct some of the statements in the Garlic healthy but pricy. We are the producers of the extract used in the Welsh research. The extract is standardised on its allicin content and is made from garlic and water. It is currently sold at ~£1 per litre for 0.1% allicin. Projected feed rates are 0.5L of 1% solution per day. Reduction of 15 -20% have been observed in dairy cattle. The possibility of carbon trading the methane reduction could offset this small extra cost.

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