The use of meat & bonemeal in French compound feed had been on the decline for several years before the EU decision at the end of last year to ban MBM in all animal feed, with feed manufacturers preferring plant proteins such as soya, according to a survey by Agreste recently published.

Figures for animal based protein (including fishmeal) used in feed in France amounted to just 400 000t or 2% of total ingredients in 2000, compared to 516 000t in 1997 and 747 000t in 1994. In fact, roughly 12.1 million tonnes of the 21.9mt of compound feed produced in France last year did not contain any raw materials of animal origin (except dairy products). As a result, the impact of the decision in November 2000 to ban MBM in all animal feed (including for pig and poultry feed to avoid the risks of cross-contamination) may not be as significant as many had believed. Nevertheless, the EU restrictions on MBM in cattle feed (in 1990) extended to other ruminants in 1994 meant that MBM use in 2000 was very much concentrated in pig & poultry feed. The other trend in recent years has been the increase in intensive pig and poultry production in France (rising by roughly 30% from 1991 to 2000) relative to the 8% increase in intensive beef production.

The decline in MBM use can be explained by several factors. Firstly, the decision by farmers involved in beef and pig or poultry production opting for plant protein so as to avoid potential cross contamination of feed. Secondly, certain pig & poultry producers decided after the 1996 BSE crisis to source feed without MBM. Another factor was unquestionably the reduced availability of MBM after the EU decision to ban Specified Risk Materials from the animal feed and human food chain, first taken in 1996. The number of feed plants in France using MBM fell from 253 in 1994 to 215 in 1997 to just 144 in 2000. Roughly one third of French poultry feed plants were already excluding MBM from feed last year, i.e. even before the EU ban was introduced.

There had also been a steady decline in the use of animal fats in French feed prior to the ban introduced last year. Volumes used in 2000 were 178 000t, compared with 228 000t in 1997 and 283 000t in 1994, mainly because these fats are basically a by-product of MBM production, and MBM supplies were reduced so sharply after 1996.

As for the alternative ingredients used, oilseed cakes have been one option taken up in France. Their use in cattle feed rose from 29% in 1988 to 35% in 1994, whereas it remained stable at roughly 22% for use in all animal feed up to 1994. In more recent years, the increase in use has broadly mirrored the reduction in MBM use, rising to 24.5% in 2000. Soya cakes remain the most popular ingredient, amounting to roughly 3.2mt, compared to products based on sunflower (950 000t) and rapeseed
(900 000t), although the annual figures tend to vary according to the raw material available.

Using soya products as a substitute for MBM has two main problems, however. From an economic point of view, the lack of French raw material required an increase in imports, mainly from Brazil, Argentina and the USA, which reached 4.2mt in 2000. The second problem, linked to this, is the difficulty in ensuring that the imported soya was free from GMOs. Having said that, only 2% of all feed, from 52 feed mills, provide GMO-free guarantees. This compares with just 0.1% of production defined as organic.

The option of using feed peas as a protein source in animal feed appears a less likely alternative given the 30% fall in production from 1994 to 2000. This amounted to 1.2mt in 2000 - two thirds of French production. Another possibility is seen as dried lucerne or alfalfa, which rose 20% from 1997 to 2000 (following three previous years of decline).

Continued increase in cereals use

The Agreste survey also highlights the continued increase in cereal use by French feed compounders, notably for pig and poultry feed. Having comprised 30% of raw materials used in feed in France in 1991, the reduction in cereals prices in both the 1992 Mac Sharry and the 1999 Agenda 2000 reforms of the EU's Common Agriculture Policy has helped consumption in French feed rise steadily, to 37% in 1994, 42% in 1997 and 44.5% in 2000 - equivalent to just under 10mt (out of French cereal
production in the order of 67mt). This increase has coincided with a drop of roughly 85% in manioc use since 1994, but also a sharp fall in corn gluten feed use. Approximately two thirds of the amounts used were soft wheat - equivalent to 17% of French production. Feed compounders in France also used 2.6mt of maize, despite a steady drop since 1994, this is still equivalent to 16% of the French crop. Despite a 7% drop in the last 4 years, barley remains the third most important cereal - with the feed industry using roughly 8% of the French crop last year. In feed terms, the use of cereals had risen to 45% in pig feed and 58% in poultry feed in 2000, from 41% and 54% respectively in 1997. The progression in recent years is even more marked for cattle feed, albeit from a lower base, notably for cereal by-products.

Agreste is a French government organisation specialised in agricultural research and statistics within the feed, forestry, rural and industrial domains.

Feedinfo News Service - 17/10/01