Food production is a very complex procedure. The primary objective of the food business and food safety authorities is to ensure food is safe for consumption.
However, this may not be the case always, as the food presumed to be safe may be harmful. Harmful components may be introduced during manufacturing, processing, storage, transportation, or even the last preparation phases before consumption.
For food derived from animals, the dangers may originate from a variety of these and other sources. Sometimes, animal feed is disregarded, but it enormously impacts the food quality. The composition and quality of animal feed can significantly and unexpectedly affect our food’s nutritional content, security, and sustainability.
Recently, concerns among consumers about the safety of animal food have increased. These problems arise from contamination and outbreaks of food-borne bacterial infections. Also, there has been a growing concern about veterinary drug residues and antimicrobial resistance in microorganisms.
These problems have drawn attention to feeding practices within the livestock industry. They have raised awareness of issues with food safety and quality that can occur in foods derived from animals due to animal feed, forage, and related feeding systems.
This article will explore the six impacts of animal feed on food quality, from nutritional composition to food safety risks. So, let’s get started!
1. Nutritional Composition
The nutritional profile of animal feed is a significant determinant of the nutritional value of animal-derived products. Animal feed is the major source of nutrition for animals. Animal bodies use it to produce by-products like milk and eggs safe for human consumption.
One of the crucial components in animal feed that contributes to the nutritional content of animal-based products is vitamins and minerals.
Animals need a variety of vitamins and minerals for their different physiological processes and metabolic operations. A proper vitamin and mineral balance in the feed promotes the healthiest possible animal performance and yields greater nutritional value animal products, thus increasing food quality.
Protein is also another crucial component. The proteins in the animal feed help the animals in growth, tissue repair, and several metabolic functions.
Therefore, when fed a balanced diet with the right amount of protein, animals can access all the essential amino acids for their growth and development.
As a result, they produce higher-quality meat and other products that are abundant in vital amino acids. This greatly increases their nutritional value, and they become more beneficial to the human body when consumed.
2. Danger to Food Safety
The quality of animal feed used greatly influences food safety and quality. Poor-quality feeds can transmit bacterial pathogens like Salmonella into the digestive tracts of animals. This will then infect animal-based products such as milk and meat for human consumption, thus risking human health.
On the other hand, high-quality feed ensures the production of safe and healthy food, thus protecting the consumer’s health. Therefore, minimizing risks to food safety and quality related to animal feed implies prioritizing high-quality feeds. This is achievable by obtaining feed ingredients from reliable vendors with good production procedures and rigorous quality control methods.
Additionally, adhering to basic hygienic procedures during production, storage, and transportation is crucial in producing high-quality feeds. It involves keeping facilities clean and hygienic, avoiding cross-contamination, and implementing best practices for food safety.
3. Presence of Antibiotic Residues
The quality and safety of food may be significantly impacted by the use of antibiotics in animal feed. Animals are frequently given antibiotics as feed additives for various reasons, such as fostering growth or avoiding infections. However, using antibiotics this way risks leaving antibiotic residues in human-eating animal products.
A part of the antibiotics that are administered to animals through their feed may be metabolized and removed from their systems. However, some antibiotics may still be present in the animal’s meat, milk, and eggs. Too many antibiotic residues may endanger human health if these products are not properly monitored and controlled.
Campaigns for consumer and farmer education and awareness are essential to addressing the problem of antibiotic residues. They will assist in highlighting the significance of prudent antibiotic usage and the possible repercussions of antibiotic resistance.
Stakeholders can support a more sustainable and ethical approach to antibiotic usage in animal feed by fostering mutual understanding and collaboration.
4. Allergenic Potential
Animal feed can affect the allergenic potential of animal-based products. This is through specific elements found in animal feed, like peanuts, which are known to be allergic to some consumers. It is proven that whatever animals consume is injected into their bodies for growth and development.
Subsequently, their end product will comprise all they have eaten, including the allergenic components in varying proportions.
One strategy that can be employed to combat the allergenic potential of animal feed is recognizing and eliminating the use of common allergenic components. This will lessen the possibility of allergenic proteins being transferred into animal-derived products.
Substitutes that are less or not allergenic can be used as alternative components in the animal feed formulation, increasing food quality.
Another measure that can be used to address the allergenic potential of animal feed is transparent and proper food labeling.
Through this, the consumers will be well informed of the possible allergenic residues in the products as a result of the animal feed. Therefore, they will be making food decisions based on the allergenic products, and they will be able to avoid those threatening their health.
5. Accumulation of Contaminants
If the animal feed has high concentrations of different contaminants, it becomes a great concern for the animals’ end products. They may be made up of these contaminants, thus risking animal and human health.
Some of these contaminants include heavy metals like mercury and lead. They are present in animal feed due to soil contamination, industrial pollution, or specific feed ingredients.
Thus, animals consuming feeds with substantial amounts of these heavy metals end up accumulating them in their tissues. The accumulated heavy metals can then be transferred to human food items made from these animals upon their utilization to produce meat, milk, or eggs.
This long-term process of exposure to heavy metals will harm human health to the extent it can cause organ damage.
However, regular government inspections and monitoring can help reduce contaminant accumulations. The government can set the standard quantity of these contaminants required for animal feed production and instruct all manufacturers to adhere to the rule.
The quality of animal feed has a significant effect on our food. It affects the nutritional profile of the products, has allergenic potential, poses a threat to food safety and quality, and the antibiotic residues can lead to human illness.
Our food system’s quality, safety, and sustainability must be maintained through balanced, nutrient-dense animal feed and tight control and monitoring. We can take significant strides toward a healthier and more sustainable future by acknowledging and addressing the effect of animal feed on food quality.
Remember that animals are susceptible to what they consume and how they consume it.