Processed animal protein (PAP) — previously known with the more consumer conscious name 'Meat and Bone Meal' — is close to reintroduction in the feed chain. But do we really want it back? That is the question in parliaments, among the feed industry and in advisory bodies. Recently Koen Van Dyck, head of Unit SANCO.DDG2.G4 on Food, Alert system and Training of the Directorate-General for Health & Consumer of the European Commission gave an update to delegates at an animal nutrition conference of AgraEurope in Brussels.
BSE — caused by recycling of animal remains in the animal feed chain — is at the origin of the ban on using meat and bone meal in animal feed, which is in place since 2001. Only fish meal was allowed in ruminant rations and a further zero-tolerance policy was installed.
In ten years time the number of BSE cases dropped from 2,167 in 2001 to 45 in 2010 confirming the effectiveness of the feed ban. All BSE positive cows found in 2010 were older than 12 years, thus born before the feed ban was established.
After years of deliberating and lobbying by the feed industry the reintroduction of PAP in animal feeds is back on the agenda. But now the feed industry is not so sure anymore if they really want PAP back in the rations, despite that the product comes from by-products derived from animals fit for human consumption.
Pig eat pig
This hesitation has to do with the EFSA opinion from 2007 stating: “…risk of transmission of BSE from non-ruminants to non-ruminants is negligible provided cross-contamination with ruminant material and cannibalism is prevented.”
I can live with the conviction that a ruminant is an herbivore and does not eat meat, but the cannibalism prohibition for pigs and poultry has nothing to do with science or biology and is purely instigated on ignorant consumer perception. An average consumer doesn’t have a clue what PAP is; let alone how it is processed.
Indeed, this ‘no intraspecies recycling’ rule is the main objective for feed companies not to introduce PAP in their feed plants since it requires a completely separated production chain for cattle, pigs and poultry feeds. Many operators had already established dedicated cattle feed plants, but most pigs and poultry feed plants are mixed facilities. Apart from separation in the feed industry, separate lines would also be required in rendering plants to supply pure poultry or pure pork PAPs.
Reference labs in 2012 will have PCR testing methods in place to check. A tolerance level is not in place, simply because there is no method to quantify cross-contamination. Discussions with member states are ongoing and the European Parliament and Council have scrutiny rights, but adoption could take place in the first half of 2012 and enter into force in the second half of 2012.
EFPRA, representing the animal by-product processing sector estimates that there are more than 100 lines in European rendering plants processing PAP. Annually 400,000 tons of pork meal, 400,000 tons of poultry meal, 200,000 tons of feather meal and 10,000 tons of pig hair are processed. These volumes could substitute 1.5 to 1.8 million tons of imported soy or 3-5% of total soy imports into the EU.
Prices of PAP for the feed industry are unknown because the product has not been in use for ten years. It will be up to the feed industry if they think it will be cost-effective to invest in separate processing lines and start using PAP in feeds again.