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Packing House By-products as Livestock Feeds

Livestock Update, July 1997

Mark L. Wahlberg, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

The practice of feeding protein products derived from animals to other animals is soon to be much more tightly controlled. The new regulations, which go into effect August 4, 1997 will be most noticeable on the labels of certain manufactured feeds. These regulations are being put into place as a precaution to maintain the United States free of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). This disease was first found in cattle in the United Kingdom in the 1980's. This disease creates lesions in the central nervous system of cattle.

The rules state that the feeding of many proteins derived from mammals to ruminant animals is prohibited. These feeds are typically packing house by-products, such as meat meal, meat and bone meal, and tankage. Ruminants include, but are not limited to cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, deer, elk, and antelope. This is an expansion of the earlier proposed rule which prohibited feeding of ruminant-derived protein to other ruminants. Specifically exempted from the rule, (meaning it is allowed) is feeding of blood products, milk and milk products, and protein derived from swine and equine sources. Also not prohibited is the feeding of various non-protein ingredients, such as fats and tallow. Because they are not derived from mammals, poultry by-products and fish meal are not prohibited in ruminant feeds.

There is likely to be a decrease in the price of certain packing house by-products, such as meat and bone meal, because these ingredients will no longer be allowed in cattle feeds. The rendering industry projected a drop in meat and bone meal price of up to $68 per ton because of reduced demand. This drop in price will likely allow such ingredients to enter feed formulations calculated on least cost. Do not let this happen. Artificially high prices of prohibited ingredients, such as $999 per ton, should be used when formulating diets for beef cattle, dairy cattle, or sheep. This will prevent these ingredients from coming into least cost formulations.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for enforcement of these regulations. Although specific penalties are not stated at this time, FDA intends to apply injunctions, criminal penalties, and seizure of adulterated or mislabeled feeds when violations are found. Feed manufacturers will not be allowed to include prohibited ingredients in feeds marketed for use in ruminant feeding situations. Because horse feeds can be used by ruminants, horse feeds containing restricted ingredients will carry the label statement "Do not feed to cattle or other ruminants."

It's worth repeating that the new FDA regulations are a precautionary measure. They are not being implemented to fix a problem. There has never been a case of BSE in the United States. The feeding of packing house by-products to livestock is an environmentally responsible method of recycling nutrients. These waste products of converting animals into food would otherwise be disposed of in a landfill. When properly heat treated (rendered) these animal by-products are a safe feed ingredient that provide high quality protein nutrition in livestock and poultry diets.

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