As the annual incidence of BSE in Britain is now regarded as being at an acceptable level, the time seems right to re-introduce the use of meat and bone meal in animal diets. That is, according to some government officials. However, the possible relaxation of the feed ban has resulted in a fierce debate, mainly in the UK and France.
Farmers, farming leaders and scientists may be happy with this decision; also seen on the poll on this website where we asked if the EU should lift the ban on feeding animal protein to farm animals. Almost 50% of the voters chose the option: Yes, it is the best protein to feed, but cannibalism should be avoided.
However, re-introduction of meat and bone meal would probably not be tolerated by the public. Supermarkets have also stressed that they would not sell meat produced in this way.
So what is the solution? Tests commissioned by the EU’s Economic and Social Committee (EESC) showed that there is no safety risk from adding pig remains to chicken or poultry parts to pig feed. So if you make sure that animals don’t eat ‘themselves’ (cannibalism), everything should be fine right?
Unfortunately that is easier said than done, unless a good traceability system is in place which is clearly communicated to all the parts in the food and feed chain including the consumers. "The way in which proteins are identified and the methods used to trace the meat meal in which they are found must give consumers a cast-iron guarantee that pigs are fed on meat meal obtained exclusively from the by-products of poultry, and that poultry is fed on meat meal obtained exclusively from the by-products of pigs" according to the EESC.
Need for recycling
Until know, no definite decision has been made if there will be a relaxation of the feed ban at all and the lively debate which is going on at the moment will probably harp on for a few months. At the same time, due to high raw material prices, farmers are increasingly looking for alternative feed sources, mainly by products from the food and biofuel industry. Recycling waste products is necessary to safeguard a sustainable green environment and a viable livestock industry. In my opinion, recycling animal by products (such as meat and bone meal) in a safe way is no exclusion in this process. It would benefit farmers and the economy in general.