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Feed for Food-Producing Animals: A Resource on Ingredients, the Industry, and Regulation

January 01, 2007
CLF Report

Lisa Y. Lefferts, Margaret Kucharski, Shawn McKenzie, Polly Walker

What is fed to animals produced for human consumption can have important implications for the health of the public. The recent finding of cows in the United States with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, is one sign of the need for more public health attention to animal feed. There are others. Many of the current headline food safety issues—Salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7, antimicrobial resistance, dioxins, and arsenic, to name just a few—are related to changes in animal feeding practices that have accompanied the industrialization of food-animal production. Indeed, animal feeding practices and the feed industry as a whole have evolved in tandem with the industrialization of animal agriculture and cannot be understood in isolation.

While knowing what is in animal feed is important in order to protect the public’s health, it can be very difficult to find this information. Currently, there is no source for detailed data on the variety and amounts of specific feed ingredients used. Such data are often not available for public scrutiny because the information is considered proprietary property of the $25 billion U.S. feed industry. For example, the types and amounts of specific ingredients, such as antibiotics, animal waste, and rendered animals, are not available to the public. Moreover, there is currently no nationwide animal feed surveillance system to monitor biological or chemical contaminants in feeds, such as Salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, arsenic, and mycotoxins. These obstacles reduce our ability to trace human illness to animal feed—despite recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Crump et al., 2002; GAO, 2000, p. 24) and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (IOM, 2004, p. 207).

This report provides an overview of animal feed practices in the U.S. including:

  1. Feed ingredients­—the wide range of materials used for feed currently given to major food-producing animals (including cows, pigs, poultry, and major animal species produced in  aquaculture)—with more detailed information on each ingredient given in the Appendix;
  2. The feed industry, including its size, structure, and the forces shaping it;
  3. Current regulatory mechanisms and examples of voluntary efforts to control the safety of feed; and
  4. Some feed ingredients of particular interest from a public health perspective.

The intent is to provide a resource document and “road map” for public health professionals and others interested in the complex public health issues associated with animal feeds. Heretofore, there has not been one place where researchers could access this information; this report is intended to fill that gap.