Garlic, cinnamon, thyme, and oregano, a list of ingredients commonly found on a kitchen spice rack, are increasingly prevalent in the diet of chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cattle. These powerful plant-based ingredients—called phytogenic feed additives—have a growing presence in animal nutrition programs in the U.S.
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It’s part of a paradigm shift in feeding animals that is being driven, in large part, by consumer demand. Today’s consumers want clean labels and food produced with transparency.
Observations in the grocery aisle and mainstream media channels show the food industry is responding. Choices for natural, no antibiotics ever, sustainable, and humanely raised protein products pervade the meat case. Restaurant chains, grocery retailers, and consumer brands continue to announce intentions to eliminate antibiotic use in their supply chains.
To bolster their experience and reputation in natural or organic brands, it’s a recognized trend for major food companies to acquire specialty, small food companies, like the recent Gold’n Plump chicken acquisition by Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. Companies are motivated to grow their portfolios and offer choices—often with increased margins—to consumers.
Meanwhile, meat and poultry producers are pressed to find solutions that support animal health and productivity without the use of antibiotics.
Trending Globally: Herbs, Spices, and Plant Extracts
Herbs, spices, other plants, and their extracts, like essential oils, have been used for human health and veterinary applications throughout history. It’s not a new concept in modern animal nutrition either. The term phytogenics was coined three decades ago by Delacon, an Austrian company that saw a need for natural plant-based solutions to keep animals healthy and performing.
No longer a niche, the phytogenics market has grown in global importance. Domestic and international regulations restrict the use of medically important antibiotics, or those important for treating human disease, in livestock production. Phytogenic feed additives are predominant in the European Union, which effectively banned the use of antibiotic growth promoters in livestock production in 2006.
Forecasts show the phytogenics market segment will grow 2.5 percent globally by 2022, an estimated worth of $774 million, as reported by Global Market Insights, Inc. Various phytogenic providers have their sights set on the U.S. as one of the most attractive markets.
In the U.S., phytogenics have been a beneficial component of conventional animal production systems for the last 17 years. Consumer-driven market demands, coupled with new antibiotic rules in the U.S. that eliminate subtherapeutic use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion, have producers revamping their feeding strategies and testing antibiotic-free production systems. As meat and poultry producers consider their options, more are turning to phytogenics as natural performance enhancers.
The Power of Nature
Developing phytogenic feed additives consists of selecting active substances found in nature and harnessing their modes of action for a specific impact in animal nutrition. The makeup of phytogenics ranges from familiar ingredients to exotic sources like quillaia (soapbark tree). It’s a process that requires significant scientific knowledge and research. Drawing upon 100 different natural substances, ingredients are precisely combined and formulated to create phytogenic solutions to animal feeding challenges. For example, sensory substances from thyme and rosemary offer antioxidant properties, help improve nutrient absorption, and stimulate appetite. Bitter substances from dandelion, garlic, and hops help increase secretion of digestive juices. Tannins from berries and peppers help reduce ammonia emissions.