Fishmeal and fish oil in pet food

Bottom line

The pet food industry represents a small but vibrant and growing market for the fishmeal and fish oil sector. The IFFO Responsible Supply standard (IFFO RS) certifies over 42% of the total global supply of fishmeal and fish oil. The result is a protein-rich ingredient with an excellent amino acid profile and a broad vitamin and mineral profile. The advantages these ingredients provide in farmed animal nutrition are equally beneficial to pets and the pet food market, along with the subsequent benefits to society.

Fish in pet food

The pet food industry represents a small but vibrant and growing market for the fishmeal and fish oil sector. Global annual production tonnages of fishmeal and fish oil are usually in the region of 5 million tonnes and a bit under 1 million tonnes respectively, with the majority used for feed production in both agriculture and aquaculture. Whilst for pet food both whole fish and byproduct (processing offcuts, etc.) are used, this article focuses on the use of material from reduction fisheries, based on stocks and species of whole fish in lower trophic levels of marine food chains.

Certified ingredients

The whole fish used in fishmeal and fish oil are mainly small, bony and oily such as anchovy, horse mackerel, menhaden, capelin and sandeel. To ensure a robust supply, fish stocks are closely managed and the industry compares well with other feed ingredient sectors in dealing with sustainability issues, when viewed on a per unit of production basis. Since 2009, IFFO, together with the support of the industry, retailers and NGOs, developed an independent third party certification scheme for marine ingredients, which was adopted by the industry in 2011. The IFFO Responsible Supply standard (IFFO RS) now certifies over 42% of the total global supply of fishmeal and fish oil, a higher figure than any other animal feed ingredient can claim. In regards to the role of these small fish in the ecosystem, scientific research continues to develop. IFFO and its members support responsible management of fisheries and are sponsoring continued scientific research in this area. They do not support the use of fish from unsustainable resources or that deprive local communities of direct fish consumption.

Production

Once caught, the fish are transported to fishmeal factories, where they are weighed and sampled, with high quality and freshness encouraged by price. Clean conveyors and storage tanks, and reduced temperatures minimise micro-organisms and the spoilage they may cause. The lower temperatures also reduce fish enzyme activity (autolysis), another form of spoilage. Fish is first typically cooked to coagulate protein and allow some oil to be released, using a temperature of 85°C to 90°C. In addition, micro-organisms are killed by this process. Cooked fish then passes into a screw press where liquor is pressed out and the solids go to the drier. The liquor is decanted to remove further solids. It is then centrifuged to spin off oil and separate out an aqueous phase (stickwater). The stickwater passes through evaporators to reduce its volume (concentrate). This concentrated liquor is returned to the press cake entering the drier.

A typical drier contains coils through which super-heated steam passes. These coils raise the temperature to 90°C for drying to around 10% moisture after cooling. Low temperature driers such as indirect hot-air or vacuum driers, operate at lower temperatures. Fish oil may go on to be purified to remove solid impurities; special filters can be used where appropriate to remove some fat soluble impurities.

The result: a healthy ingredient

The result is a protein rich ingredient with an excellent amino acid profile and a broad vitamin and mineral profile, many of which are known to be essential to the health and welfare of farmed animal and fish species. Coupled to this are the health benefits related to the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as equally important to animal nutrition and health as they are in humans. The advantages these ingredients provide in farmed animal nutrition are equally beneficial to pets and the pet food market, along with the subsequent benefits to society that excellent pet nutrition provides. This is an industry that has a proud tradition of supporting animal nutrition over decades and will continue to do so for many decades to come.

Author

Neil Auchterlonie

Technical Director, IFFO