From basketball to feed milling: a common tactic for winning in 2023

header basketball court

By Ivan Ilic, Global Manager Technical Product Applications, EW Nutrition


It has been a rough couple of years for the world. And from climate change to war, all negative impacts have reverberated down to feed millers.

  • Climate change affected raw material prices and availability
  • COVID-19 impacted shipping costs and manpower
  • War impacted energy prices and raw material availability

And that´s without even considering market trends toward sustainability, shifting resources to biofuel, and so on.

With all these challenges going on, working to improve feed mill efficiency has lately kept me extremely busy. I´ve been traveling and talking to customers around the world about SurfAce and how we bring benefits in energy cost savings, process efficiency, moisture optimization, and so on. But when I am at home, I take a walk every evening in the woods near my house. I often use the time to reflect on personal and professional issues.

At some point, I found myself thinking about the European Basketball Championship (in Serbia, basketball is a national sport). Last year, the head coach of the Serbian national team decided not to call one of our best players to the national team. Lots of people criticized this decision, as for the past few years he had been one of the top players in Europe.

So, I started to think about choosing a team over a star. How do you balance your strong points to make sure of a win? (Yes, there is a connection to feed mills. I´m getting there.)

Winning through strategy rather than showmanship

Bozidar Maljkovic is a Serbian legend, who trained several winning teams, among which the European champion team Limoges. This was a French team he picked up mid-season, with moderate resources on the basketball court as well as outside it. The entire 1993 Euro season, Maljkovic chose to play extreme defense and score a very low number of points. In the finals, he played against a big favorite: Benneton Treviso, a wealthier team that, at that time, had a roster of excellent players. He won the game using the same strategy: tight defense, highly tactical game. A championship won not on artistic merit but on strategy.

After that final game, his good friend and well-known coach of Treviso, Petar Skansi, accused Maljkovic that he was destroying the basketball game with that tactic. Maljkovic answered to Skansi in more or less these words: you give me Kukoc (Treviso´s best player) and I´ll win on a different tactic.

When I remembered this episode during my walk, I suddenly saw a pattern in basketball coaching and feedmill management.

Know your objective

As in basketball, in feed milling you must be clear about your target, your main objective. In Maljkovic´s case, the objective was not to make basketball games attractive for the public, just as it was not to his objective to showcase his players. His target was to win the Euro title.

The same goes for the feed mill. Sure, you have several objectives, but there must be a main one. Say your primary objective is to maximize profit. If that is the case, then the next step is to be sure of what the market demands. This way you can avoid spending money for added value on something that the market is unwilling to pay for.

Know your players

Once you know what outcome you can deliver and what the market is prepared to pay for, the next step is analytics.

You must dive deep into your feed mill and get all the data on your “players”: raw materials, technology, people, machines, parameters, logistics etc. You must understand the current status and capabilities of your players, with advantages and limitations. Your job is to use them to the best of their capabilities in order to achieve your objective.

Know the interconnections between players

Just as every player depends on others, also feed mill processes are related and interdependent. If you want to have fine grinding, you will achieve better PDI, but it will cost more energy in milling and the result may not be as good for some categories of animals. Is this efficient and acceptable? It all depends on your main objective.

Balancing between pros and cons and walking that thin line is what efficiency means. With these challenges looming large, finding that balance will be the main task in feed milling.

Be curious

“Be curious” is one of the values of our company, but I would prompt anyone to adopt it. Play with parameters, support operators to do it, and find the point that yields maximum return for your specific objective.

Literature without your own data is fiction. In literature you can find data that says, for instance, that for every 15°C you have 1% more moisture. You can also find literature that says you have 1% more moisture for every 12°C or every 17°C. But what is the ratio in your feedmill? If you do not know, you are still not diving deep enough.

You need to figure out the interconnected factors in your own production. If you calculate by the books and official recommendations, you are adjusting work in some other feed mill, not yours. Yes: guidance is very important to understand relations and to be aware of margins. But inside those margins, you have to find your own numbers.

Find the least opportunity cost

Very often I see goals that are rebels without a cause. Take PDI, for instance. PDI is an important value, no doubt. It has been shown that better PDI correlates with better FCR etc.

However, when you set a target value for PDI you need to be sure that future investment in increasing PDI is relevant to your customers – and that they are willing to pay for that. Even if you are an integrator, first do the math on the benefits and the cost. With rising costs not just for you but also for your end customers, make sure the market can support the premium you are struggling to deliver. If you are sure, then find the most adequate way to win it. You can increase your PDI in lots of different ways, so you will need to calculate the least opportunity cost.

Production is a game of interdependencies. So is any team sport, in fact. When a coach makes a decision to put a star player in the spotlight, there may be a show but not always a win.

In a feed mill, the end game is always played around winning. It is a complex tactic of balancing all players and getting the most in your very specific circumstances. Our job is to identify and maximize these „synergies” in each specific case – and I can confirm that each case is different. In the end, Kukoc may have played the same game in Jugoplastika or Treviso, but no two feed mills are quite the same; even in same feed mill, no two lines will be adjusted the same way.

Feed hygiene protects animals and humans


By Vaibhav Gawande, Assistant Manager Technical Services, Dr. Inge Heinzl, Editor, and Marisabel Caballero, Global Technical Manager Poultry, EW Nutrition

The utility value of feed consists of the nutritional value and the quality. The first covers all characteristics concerning the essential nutrients and is important for feed formulation and the adequate supply of the animals.

Feed quality comprises all characteristics of a feed influenced by treatment, storage, conservation, hygiene, and its content of specific substances. For many factors, guidance and threshold values are available which should be met to guarantee animal health and welfare, as well as to protect public health, since some undesirable substances can be transferred to animal products such as meat, eggs, and milk.

In this article, we will focus on feed hygiene. We will talk about the consequences of low feed quality, how to understand it, its causes, and possible solutions.

What are the effects of deficient feed hygiene?

The consequences of deficient feed hygiene can be divided into two parts, impurities and spoilage.

Impurities comprise:

  • the presence of soil, sand, or dust
  • contamination with or residues of heavy metals, PCB, dioxins, pesticides, fertilizers, disinfectants, toxic plants, or banned feed ingredients

In the case of spoilage, we see:

  • degradation of organic components by the action of molds and bacteria
  • growth of pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella, etc.
  • accumulation of toxins such as mycotoxins or bacterial toxins (Hoffmann, 2021)

Bad feed hygiene can also negatively impact the feed’s nutritional value by leading to a loss of energy as well as decreasing the bioavailability of vitamins A, D3, E, K, and B1.

But, how can all signs of deficient feed hygiene be recognized? Soil, sand, and probably dust can be seen in well-taken samples and impurities can be analyzed. But is it possible to spot spoilage? In this case, agglutinated particles, rancid odor, moisture, and discoloration are indicators. Sometimes, also the temperature of the feed or ingredient increases. However, spoilage is not always obvious and an analysis of the feed can give more information about the spoilage-related organisms present. It also helps to decide if the feed is safe for the animals or not. In the case of obvious alterations, the feed should not be consumed by any animal.

Different organisms decrease feed quality and impact health

Several organisms can be responsible for a decrease in feed quality. Besides the visible pests such as rats, mice, or beetles, which can easily be noticed and combatted, there are organisms whose mastering is much more difficult. In the following part, the different harmful organisms and substances are described and solutions are presented.

Enteropathogens can cause diarrhea and production losses

In poultry, different bacteria responsible for high production losses can be transferred via the feed. The most relevant of them are Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli, and some strains of Salmonella.

Clostridium perfringens, the cause of necrotic enteritis

Clostridium perfringens is a Gram-positive, anaerobic bacterium that is extremely resistant to environmental influences and can survive in soil, feed, and litter for several years and even reproduce. Clostridium perfringens causes necrotic enteritis mainly in 2-16 weeks old chickens and turkeys, being more critical in 3-6 weeks old chicks.

There is a clinical and a subclinical form of necrotic enteritis. The clinical form can be detected very well due to clear symptoms and mortality rates up to 50%. The subclinical form, while harder to detect, also raises production costs due to a significant decrease in performance. The best prophylaxis against clostridia is the maintenance of gut health, including feed hygiene.

Clostridia can be found in animal by-products, as can be seen in table 1.

Sr. No. Sample details Clostridium perfringens contamination Total number of samples Positivity %
Positive Negative
1 Meat and bone meal 39 52 91 42.86
2 Soya meal 0 3 3 0
3 Rape seed meal 0 1 1 0
4 Fish meal 21 17 38 55.26
5 Layer Feed 21 71 93 22.58
6 Dry fish 5 8 13 38.46
7 De-oiled rice bran 0 2 2 0
8 Maize 0 2 2 0
9 Bone meal 13 16 29 44.83

Table 1: Isolation of Clostridium perfringens from various poultry feed ingredients in Tamil Nadu, India (Udhayavel et al., 2017)

Salmonella is harmful to animals and humans

Salmonella is a gram-negative enterobacterium and can occur in feed. There are only two species – S. enterica and S. bongori (Lin-Hui and Cheng-Hsun, 2007), but almost 2700 serotypes. The most known poultry-specific Salmonella serotypes are S. pullorum affecting chicks and S. gallinarum affecting adult birds. The other two well-known serotypes, S. enteritidis and S. typhimurium are the most economically important ones because they can also infect humans.

Salmonella enteritidis, in particular, can be transferred via table eggs to humans. The egg content can be infected vertically as a result of a colonization of the reproductive tract of the hen (De Reu, 2015). The other possibility is a horizontal infection, as some can penetrate through the eggshell from a contaminated environment or poor egg handling.

Salmonella can also be transferred through meat. However, as there are more production steps where contamination can happen (breeder and broiler farm, slaughterhouse, processing plants, food storage…), traceability is more complicated. As feed can be vector, feed hygiene is crucial.

Moreover, different studies have found that the same Salmonella types found in feed are also detected – weeks later – in poultry farms and even further in the food chain, as reviewed by Ricke and collaborators (2019). Other researches even imply that Salmonella contamination of carcasses and eggs could be significantly reduced by minimizing the incidence of Salmonella in the feed (Shirota et al., 2000).

E. coli – some are pathogenic

E. coli is a gram-negative, not acid-resistant bacterium and most strains are inhabitants of the gut flora of birds, warm-blooded animals, and humans. Only some strains cause disease. To be infectious, the bacteria must have fimbriae to attach to the gut wall or the host must have an immune deficiency, perhaps due to stress. E. coli can be transmitted via contaminated feed or water as well as by fecal-contaminated dust.

Escherichia coli infections can be found in poultry of all ages and categories and nearly everywhere in the bird. E. coli affects the navel of chicks, the reproductive organs of hens, several parts of the gut, the respiratory tract, the bones and joints, and the skin and are part of the standard control.

The feed microbiome can contribute to a balanced gut microbial community. The origins of pathogenic E. coli in a flock can also be traced to feed contamination (Stanley & Bajagai, 2022). Especially in pre-starter/starter feeds, E. coli contamination can be critical as the day-old chick’s gut is starting to be colonized. Especially in this phase, maintaining a low microbial count in feed is crucial.

Molds cause feed spoilage and reduce nutritional value

Molds contaminate grains, both in the field and during storage, and can also grow in stored feed and even in feed stored or accumulated in storage facilities in animal production farms.

The contamination of feed by molds and their rapid growth can cause heating of the feed. As molds also need nutrients, their growth results in a reduction of energy and the availability of vitamins A, D3, E, K, and B1, thus decreasing the feed’s nutritional value. This heating occurs in most feeds with a moisture content higher than 15 /16%. Additionally, mold-contaminated feed tends to be dusty and has a bad taste impacting palatability and, as a consequence, feed intake and performance.

Molds produce spores that can, when inhaled, cause chronic respiratory disease or even death if the animals are exposed to contaminated feed for a longer time. Another consequence of mold contamination is the production of mycotoxins by several mold species. These mycotoxins can affect the animal in several ways, from decreasing performance to severe disease (Esmail, 2021; Government of Manitoba, 2023).

With effective feed hygiene management, we want to stop and prevent mold growth, as well as all its negative consequences.

Prevention is better than treatment

It is clear that when the feed is spoiled, it must be removed, and animal health supporting measures should take place. However, it is better to prevent the consequences of low feed hygiene on animals. Proper harvest and adequate storage of the feed are basic measures to stop mold growth. Additionally, different tools are available to protect the animals from feed bacterial load and other risk factors.

Solutions are available to support feed hygiene

There are several solutions to fight the organisms which decrease feed quality. Some directly act against the harmful substances / pathogens, and others act indirectly, meaning that they change the environment to a non-comfortable one for the organism.

Formaldehyde and propionic acid – an unbeatable team against bacteria

A combination of formaldehyde and propionic acid is perfect to sanitize feed. Formaldehyde results in bacterial DNA and protein damage, and propionic acid is active against bacteria and molds. Together, they improve the microbiological quality of the feed and reduce the risk of secondary diseases such as necrotic enteritis or dysbiosis on the farm. In addition to the pure hygienic aspect, organic acids support digestion.

An in-vitro trial was conducted to evaluate the effect of such a combination (Formycine Gold Px) against common poultry pathogens. Poultry feed was spiked with three different bacteria, achieving very high initial contamination of 1,000,000 CFU/g per pathogen. One batch of the contaminated feed served as a control (no additive). To the other contaminated batches, 1, 2, or 4 kg of Formycine per ton of feed were added. The results (means of triplicates) are shown in figures 1 a-c.

Figure A Salmonella

Figure B E

Figure C Clostridium PerfringensFigures 1 a-c: Reduction of bacterial count due to the addition of Formycine

Formycine Gold Px significantly reduced the bacterial counts in all three cases. A clear dose-response-effect can be seen and by using 2 kg of Formycine / t of feed, pathogens could not be detected anymore in the feed.

A further trial showed the positive effects of feeding Formycine Gold Px treated feed to the animals. Also here, the feed for both groups was contaminated with 1,000,000 CFU of Clostridium/g. The feed of the control group was not treated and to the treatment group, 2 kg of Formycine per t was added.

Figure Preventive EffectFigure 2: Preventive effect of Formycine Gold Px concerning necrotic enteritis gut lesions

Figure A Daily GainFigure 3a and 3b: Performance-maintaining effect of Formycine Gold Px

The trial showed that Formycine Gold Px reduced the ingestion of the pathogen, and thus could prevent the lesions caused by necrotic enteritis (Fig. 2). The consequence of this improved gut health is a better feed conversion and higher average daily gain (Fig.3a and 3b).

Products containing formaldehyde may represent a risk for humans, however, the adequate protection equipment helps to reduce/avoid exposure.

A combination of free acids and acid salts provides optimal hygienic effects

Additionally, another blend of organic acids (Acidomix AFG) shows the best effects against representatives of relevant feed-borne pathogens in poultry. In a test, 50 µl solution containing different microorganisms (reference strains of S. enterica, E. coli, C. perfringens, C. albicans, and A. niger; concentration 105 CFU/ml, respectively) were pipetted into microdilution plates together with 50 µl of increasing concentrations of a mixture of organic acids (Acidomix) After incubation, the MIC and MBC of each pathogen were calculated.

The test results show (figure 4, Minimal Bactericidal Concentration) that 0.5% of Acidomix AFG in the medium (≙ 5kg/t of feed) is sufficient to kill S. enterica, C. albicans, and A. niger and even only 2.5kg/t in the case of E. coli. If the pathogens should only be prevented to proliferate, even a lower amount of product is requested (figure 5, Minimal Inhibitory Concentration – MIC)

Figure MbcFigure 4: MBC of Acidomix AFG against different pathogens (%)

Figure MicFigure 5: MIC of Acidomix AFG against different pathogens (%)

In addition to the direct antimicrobial effect, this product decreases the pH of the feed and reduces its buffering capacity. The combination of free acids and acid salts provides prompt and long-lasting effects.

Feed hygiene: a critical path to animal performance

Feed accounts for 65-70% of broiler and 75-80% of layer production costs. Therefore, it is essential to use the available feed to the utmost. The quality of the feed is one decisive factor for the health and performance of the animals. Proper harvesting and storage are in the hands of the farmers and the feed millers. The industry offers products to control the pathogens causing diseases and the molds producing toxins and, therefore, helps farmers save feed AND protect the health and performance of their animals.


Dinev, Ivan. Diseases of Poultry: A Colour Atlas. Stara Zagora: Ceva Sante Animal, 2007.

Esmail, Salah Hamed. “Moulds and Their Effect on Animal Health and Performance.” All About Feed, June 17, 2021.

Government of Manitoba. “Spoiled Feeds, Molds, Mycotoxins and Animal Health.” Province of Manitoba – Agriculture. Accessed March 16, 2023.

Hoffmann, M. “Tierwohl Und Fütterung.” LKV Sachsen: Tierwohl und Fütterung. Sächsischer Landeskontrollverband e.V., January 25, 2021.

Ricke, Steven C., Kurt Richardson, and Dana K. Dittoe. “Formaldehydes in Feed and Their Potential Interaction with the Poultry Gastrointestinal Tract Microbial Community–A Review.” Frontiers in Veterinary Science 6 (2019).

Shirota, Kazutoshi, Hiromitsu Katoh, Toshihiro Ito, and Koichi Otsuki. “Salmonella Contamination in Commercial Layer Feed in Japan.” Journal of Veterinary Medical Science 62, no. 7 (2000): 789–91.

Stanley, Dragana, and Yadav Sharma Bajagai. “Feed Safety and the Development of Poultry Intestinal Microbiota.” Animals 12, no. 20 (2022): 2890.

Su, Lin-Hui, and Cheng-Hsun Chiu. “Salmonella: Clinical Importance and Evolution of Nomenclature.” Chang Gung Med J 30, no. 3 (2007): 210–19.

Udhayavel, Shanmugasundaram, Gopalakrishnamurthy Thippichettypalayam Ramasamy, Vasudevan Gowthaman, Shanmugasamy Malmarugan, and Kandasamy Senthilvel. “Occurrence of Clostridium Perfringens Contamination in Poultry Feed Ingredients: Isolation, Identification and Its Antibiotic Sensitivity Pattern.” Animal Nutrition 3, no. 3 (2017): 309–12.

Shrinkage: Causes, dangers, solutions


By Predrag Persak, Regional Technical Manager, EW Nutrition

In light of sustainability requirements, shortage of feed materials, and constant pressure on energy efficiency, we must rethink how we deal with all elements that impact our production. Shrinkage is one of the essential impacting elements 

What is Shrinkage? 

In simple terms, shrinkage is the weight loss in feed or feed materials during receiving, processing, or storage. Shrinkage happens on the farm level but also in feed mills. In this article, we will focus on the latter one. Points or reasons why this happens are diverse but not unknown. Wastages, dust, pests, moisture loss, and scale deviations are some of the most important. Through time, we found efficient ways to close the doors to feather and fur pests that were stealing valuable resources and causing shrinkage. We are also good at weight control when receiving and dispatching, by thoroughly balancing the scales. But one point related to the core of feed production – and the most significant loss – is still left untackled. That is moisture loss through grinding. 

Figure 1: Points of moisture loss and addition in the feed mill 

Grinding is one central point of shrinkage

Grinding and subsequent particle size reduction is essential from many points (handling, nutritional, processing, mixing uniformity, …) and is unavoidable if we want to produce excellent feed. In the case of grinding with hammer mills, we use kinetic energy to make the hammers beat kernels to the desired size. This is a very efficient process. However, during that process, a part of kinetic energy is also transferred to thermal, increasing the temperature of the processed feed materials and resulting in the loss of one part of valuable moisture. Also, due to size reduction and enlargement of the surface, there is much more place for evaporation and moisture movement. Losses can be up to 2%. One essential parameter for high pellet quality is the particle size, but very fine grinding will result in higher shrinkage through moisture and dust losses.

Moisture is decisive  ̶  we must manage it!

The valuable moisture is needed for many reasons. One is weight. Another reason is that nutritional density for feed materials is calculated considering a certain moisture content. Additionally, moisture influences the processing parameters during the pelleting process (targeted moisture content in the conditioner should be 16-18%). Since moisture loss is unavoidable and represents the most significant part of loss or shrinkage, we must manage it. For this purpose, we must substitute lost moisture with added moisture. And in that process, we have a short time to do it properly. Usually, we don´t have enough time for so-called “soaking”. However, with the help of surfactants, the process can be speeded up.

Surf-Ace helps to keep the moisture in the feed

Surf-Ace, a liquid preservative premix for moisture optimization, which contains organic acids / organic acid salts, emulsifiers, and surfactants, helps to keep the moisture in the feed. Conditioning can be hindered by surface tension because water forms a film on the surface of the feed particles, or oil covers the particles. Surf-Ace improves water penetration and retention by decreasing surface tension. Trials show the moisture-optimizing effect of Surf-Ace.

A trial conducted in Jordan demonstrated an increase in moisture in different processing phases (feeder, heater, and the final product). It also showed better maintenance of water in the product during storage (Fig. 2).

Graph Figure 2: Surf-Ace achieved higher moisture levels in different phases of the feed production process

Two further trials conducted in Poland and Serbia also showed that feed millers could increase moisture in the final feed by using Surf-Ace (Fig. 3).

Graph Figure 3: Surf-Ace provided for higher moisture content in the feed

Effective surfactants minimize shrinkage in feed

Shrinkage in times of increasing costs must be minimized by all means. The feed industry offers surfactants that keep the moisture in the feed during processing and prevent at least this part of shrinkage.

Besides the financial aspect, the optimal moisture content in feed and feed materials is important to provide high feed quality, whether concerning pellet quality or percentage of nutrients. Using surfactants, therefore, not only increases profitability but also does its bit concerning sustainability.

Feed processing is the sustainability champion no one knows about (yet!)


By Predrag Persak, Regional Technical Manager Europe, EW Nutrition

Imagine you’re at a pub quiz dedicated to feed production, and this question pops up: name a process that returns up to 25 times what was invested in it. Do you know the answer? I’m pretty sure you are probably using it every day: pelleting. For every unit of used energy, pelleting generates up to 25 times more in terms of the nutritional value for animals (mostly metabolizable energy).

The math is simple: while we gain 200 kcal/kg by pelleting broiler mash feed, only 10 Kilowatts are used to produce one ton of broiler feed. This is just one example of how sustainability is at the core of feed production – and has always been, long before it became a buzzword. So, to all those who operate feed mills, who take care of sourcing and quality, and to those behind numbers that represent nutritional values: You are pioneers of sustainability and should be proud of that.

How feed processing can drive sustainability efforts

Besides being proud, we must also be very responsible. Every nutritionist should focus on

  1. how processing of feed materials and feed influences the release of nutrients, nutrient density, and exclusion of antinutrients, and
  2. how processing can improve these dimensions, making feed more sustainable.

Do we take processing sufficiently into consideration? Do we create formulations in a dynamic or more static way? Not least in an era of precision feeding, the shift from static to dynamic is inevitable.

This is even clearer when we consider how processing can influence digestion, absorption, and the performance of animals. How so? Feed processing makes previously unusable materials suitable for nutrition or improves already usable materials. So, the feed processing itself is a key to sustainability.


Feed processing converts energy into more energy (?!)

Feed processing, in simple terms, means converting energy into more energy. This shouldn’t work, given the law of thermodynamics, but it does. Compound feed contains various feed materials and additives. Grains and protein sources (many times wrongly declared as byproducts), fibrous roughages and many other different components should not go together. Thanks to processing, they become feed which ensures the availability of all nutrients to the species, category, or animal production system for which that feed is intended.

Through processing, we alter the physical, chemical, and edible properties of used feed materials, making them usable for animals. Through proper processing, we improve the digestibility of feed materials by up to 20%, enabling a more effective – and thus more sustainable – use of feed resources. In practice, there is room for improvement to make feed processing even more of a sustainability champion.

Moisture optimization is key to energy-efficient pelleting

Let’s take a closer look at pelleting since it requires the most energy within feed processing. How much energy is used? This depends on many factors and can range from 5 KW/h up to 25. Pelleting is mostly used in broiler diets to reduce nutrient segregation and feed sorting and, by extension, feed wastage. Pelleting has also been found to increase the weight gain of individual birds and flock uniformity, and overall feed efficiency is higher.

Pelleting involves the agglomeration of mixed feed into whole pellets through a mechanical process using heat, moisture, and pressure (Falk, 1985). Heat (energy that is transported through steam) has the largest impact on pelleting efficacy. Steam injected during conditioning increases feed moisture and temperature, softens feed particles, extracts natural binders, and reduces friction which leads to greater production rates and pellet quality (Skoch et al., 1981).

The key to an efficient pelleting process is to set the parameters at the levels that will enable proper energy transfer from steam to feed particles. Besides steam quality, the moisture of the feed is a critical factor for efficient energy transfer. Generally, the thermal conductivity of the most used feed materials increases with increasing moisture. A level of 17% moisture in the conditioner is needed for efficient energy transfer. Below 17%, we need more steam (more energy) or more time (more capacity) to achieve the same result. That is why proper moisture optimization is needed to use the energy transferred through steam in the most efficient way.

Reduce shrinkage, improve sustainability

What about shrinkage? Shrinkage is not just a cost factor but a sustainability issue. We must not lose scarce and valuable materials and nutrients. Overall shrinkage tends to be around 1%. For global feed production as a whole, 1% annual shrinkage is equivalent to 15 years of Croatian compound feed production!

We help our industry to keep up sustainability efforts in terms of energy savings and shrinkage reduction by offering SurfAce. It’s a liquid preservative premixture with multiple economic and environmental benefits to the customer. It helps increase pellet output, improves conditioning, enhances the durability of the pelleted feed, reduces the formation of fines, and improves the overall quality of the final feed product. But most importantly, it optimizes feed production costs through energy savings and reduced labor input while also supporting the microbiological quality of the feed.

In the food sector, we have seen vast improvements in non-thermal food processing over the past decade. Examples include ultrasonication, cold plasma technology, supercritical technology, irradiation, pulsed electric field, high hydrostatic pressure, pulsed ultraviolet technology, and ozone treatment. I’m sure some of these technologies will be applied to feed processing one day. Until then, we must keep up our high sustainability standards and make it more efficient by applying all available tools in our feed processing toolbox.


Falk, D. “Pelleting Cost Center.” Essay. In Feed Manufacturing Technology III, edited by Robert R. McEllhiney, 167–90. Arlington, VA: American Feed Industry Association, 1981.

Skoch, E.R., K.C. Behnke, C.W. Deyoe, and S.F. Binder. “The Effect of Steam-Conditioning Rate on the Pelleting Process.” Animal Feed Science and Technology 6, no. 1 (1981): 83–90.


Feed producers: here’s how to deal with fats shortages and high costs

feed mill

By Marisabel Caballero, Global Technical Manager Poultry, EW Nutrition

COVID-19 and its aftermath, the Russia-Ukraine war, and climate change have all contributed to the current crisis. Energy price increases, supply chain difficulties, and raw material availability and rising prices are all consequences felt deeply across the animal production sector. It is now time that the industry puts in place mitigation plans and starts taking action.

Cost and availability of fats – a looming problem

The lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019/2020 caused a rapid drop in energy demand and therefore a cut in global oil production. In 2021, as normality was recovered, it was met an energy supply-demand imbalance leading to a global supply chain crisis that further stressed the delivery of energy sources. In 2022, one of Europe’s driest summers compounded by the Russian-Ukrainian war have greatly contributed to the increasing energy prices.

With two of the largest suppliers of grains and oil – Russia and Ukraine – at war, the global food supply and prices are also compromised. These two countries provide the world with more than 20% of all wheat and barley, 15% of corn and 60% of sunflower oil (FAO, 2022).



Moreover, corn and soybean yields in South America also fell sharply in 2019-20 and 2021-22 due to the impact of La Nina and are expected to continue being low in the next season.

Biofuels and animal production compete for crops

Biofuels have been seen as a solution to decrease fossil-fuel energy dependance. Before the war, global biofuel production was at a record high. However, in the current crisis, biofuels may be a contributor to the rise in food prices, as they use a significant percentage of feed-production crops. Only in the US, around 30% of the corn production goes into biofuels, while biodiesel accounts for 40% of soybean oil use (O’Malley & Searle, 2021).

For the animal production industry, maintaining performance and profitability during price hikes involves a combination of strategies. Feed production accounts for up to 70% of meat production costs. With the soaring energy and raw material crisis, feed production costs are on the spot.

The impact of fat in pelleting process output

Oils and fats generally are added to animal feeds as a rich source of energy and other essential nutrients. For the feed production unit, fats can be a pellet quality and energy output enhancer.

During the pelleting process, fat can increase production output, save energy, and prolong the production life of the die as it can act as a lubricant during the process. The feed ingredients contain fat, and a portion of fat/oil is usually added in the mixer. Too much in-mixer fat addition (higher than 2%) negatively affects pellet quality, and when fat is too low (no addition), the production rate decreases. Fats and oils are also added through a pellet coating system, which has been demonstrated to improve pellet quality.

In fats/oils high cost and shortage scenarios, feed production managers and nutritionists are faced with the challenge of production with higher constraints. In-mixer fat addition has consequences in throughput. However, in-mixer moisture addition facilitates conditioner steam penetration into the feed particles. With that, the efficiency of the process may be partially recovered.

Solving the efficiency & quality equation

Simply adding water into the mixer does not give optimal results: Surfactants, on the other hand, improve moisture penetration into the feed particles and increase lubrication at pellet die point. By reducing the surface tension of water, surfactants enable the feed particles to absorb and distribute the moisture uniformly.

Improved moisture retention facilitates the starch gelatinization during mash conditioning and passing through the pellet die. This is important to make the pellet more durable and the feed more digestible. It also reduces friction and hence the energy required for the pelleting process (improving milling efficiency). At the same time, surfactants aid with pellet water retention, minimizing feed shrinkage without increasing water activity, thus curbing feed microbial growth.

What difference can an effective surfactant make?

The effect of adding SURF•ACE to diets with different levels of fat was evaluated in more than 40 feed mills, with production capacities ranging from 5 to 20 tons per hour. SURF•ACE is added to water sprayed during mixing. This solution lubricates the mash feed, improves steam penetration and starch gelatinization, and thus reduces friction in the pellet die. The results show that, relative to pure water, the addition of SURF•ACE increases press throughout (t/h) by up to 25%.


Prioritize efficiency to compensate current challenges

Operating in a tight margin environment, feed mills always need to prioritize efficiency. The advantages of using SURF•ACE feed mill processing aid are clear: reduced energy consumption without compromising pellet quality; moisture optimization; and higher productivity.

During times of increasingly high ingredient and energy costs, it is even more important to utilize savings opportunities at every production stage.

Stop endotoxins from decreasing animal performance

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By Marisabel CaballeroGlobal Technical Manager Poultry, EW Nutrition

Find out why endotoxemia threatens animal production and how intelligent toxin mitigation solution SOLIS MAX can support endotoxin management.

Figure 1: Structure of Lipopolysaccharide

The quick guide to endotoxins (LPS) and what to do about them

Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are a constant challenge for animal production. LPS, which are also known as endotoxins, are the major building blocks of the outer walls of Gram-negative bacteria (see figure 1). Throughout its life cycle, a bacterium releases these molecules upon cell death and lysis. When endotoxins are released into the intestinal lumen of chickens or swine, or in the rumen of polygastric animals, they can cause serious damage to the animal’s health and performance by over-stimulating their immune system.

LPS may induces inflammation and fever, lowering feed intake, and redirecting nutritional resources to the immune response, which results in hindered animal performance.

Endotoxins depress animal performance

One of the biggest issues caused by endotoxemia is that animals reduce their feed intake and show a poor feed conversion rate (FCR). Why does this happen? The productive performance of farm animals (producing milk, eggs, or meat) requires nutrients. An animal also requires a certain baseline amount of nutrients for maintenance, that is, for all activities related to its survival.

As a result of inflammation, endotoxemia leads to a feverish state. Maintenance needs to continue; hence, the energy required for producing heat will be diverted from the nutrients usually spent on production of milk, eggs, meat, etc., and performance suffers. This is amplified because the immune reaction also requires resources (e.g., energy, amino acids, etc. to produce more immune cells).

The inflammation response can result in mitochondrial injury to the intestinal cells, which alter the cellular energy metabolism. This is reflected in changes to the levels in adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy “currency” of living cells. A study by Li et al. (2015) observed a respective reduction of 15% and 55% in the ATP levels of the jejunum and ileum of LPS-challenged broilers, compared to the unchallenged control group.

piglet study by Huntley, Nyachoti, and Patience (2017) found that LPS-challenged pigs retained 15% less of the available metabolizable energy and showed 25% less nutrient deposition (figure 2). These results illustrate how animal performance declines during endotoxemia.

  • Control treatment (CON) = Pigs fed by a basal diet
  • Immune system stimulation treatment (ISS) = Pigs given LPS (E. coli serotype 055:B5) injection

Figure 2: Retained Energy as % of ME intake and nutrient deposition of pigs in metabolic cages (adapted from Huntley, Nyachoti, and Patience, 2017)

A loss of energy retained due to a reduction in available metabolizable energy leads to losses in performance as the amount of energy available for muscle production and fat storage will be lower. Furthermore, the decrease in feed intake creates a further energy deficit concerning production needs.

Endotoxin tolerance

The repeated exposure to LPS leads to the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, as a reaction of the body to prevent tissue damage due to the excessive inflammation. This immunosuppression during stress may lead to an increased risk of secondary infection and poor vaccination titers.

LPS tolerance, also known as CARS (compensatory anti-inflammatory response syndrome) essentially depresses the immune system to control its activity. This “regulation” can be extremely dangerous as an excessive depression of the immune system leaves the organism exposed to the actual pathogens.

The way forward: Natural endotoxin mitigation with SOLIS MAX

The quantity of Gram-negative bacteria in an animal intestine is considerable; therefore, the danger of immune system over-stimulation through endotoxins cannot be taken lightly. Stress factors – that are not uncommon in animal production – affect the microbiome (favoring gram-negative bacteria) and also decrease the intestinal barrier function, which leads to the passage of LPS into the bloodstream

Animals suffering from endotoxemia are subject to severe metabolic dysfunctions. If they do not perish from septic shock (and most of them do not), they are still likely to show performance losses. Moreover, they at great risk of immunosuppression caused by CARS, the immune system “overdrive” discussed above.

Fortunately, research shows that EW Nutrition’s SOLIS MAX effectively binds bacterial toxins, helping to prevent these scenarios.

In vitro trial shows SOLIS MAX’ effectiveness against bacterial endotoxins

Binding endotoxins in the gastrointestinal tract, especially during stress situations in animal production, can help to mitigate the negative impact of LPS on the animals. It reduces the endotoxins passing into the bloodstream and entering the organism.

SOLIS MAX is a synergistic combination of natural plant extracts, yeast cell walls, and natural clay minerals. An in vitro study conducted at a research facility in Germany evaluated its binding performance for LPS derived from E. coli.

To test the efficacy of SOLIS MAX in binding endotoxins, 0.1% (w/v) of SOLIS MAX was resuspended in endotoxin-free water, with and without a challenge of 25,2568 EU/ml. After one hour, the solutions were centrifuged and the supernatants tested for LPS using Endo-LISA test kits.

The results show that 1 mg of SOLIS MAX adsorbs 20 endotoxin units (EU) of E. coli endotoxin, which corresponds – for this challenge – to an 80% adsorption rate (figure 3).

Figure 3: SOLIS MAX effectively adsorbs E. coli endotoxins

Endotoxin solution SOLIS MAX: Stabilize gut health, support performance

The detrimental impact of LPS can be mitigated by using a high-performance solution such as SOLIS MAX. To prevent negative health and performance outcomes for the animal it is important to stabilize the challenged intestinal barrier and to support the balance of the gut microbiome. Binding endotoxins before they can exert their damaging impact is the primary objective, which SOLIS MAX achieves through the intelligent interaction of natural plant extracts. This can be expected to yield positive results in terms of production levels and the prevention of secondary infections, preserving animal health and farms’ economic viability.


Adib-Conquy, Minou, and Jean-Marc Cavaillon. “Compensatory Anti-Inflammatory Response Syndrome.” Thrombosis and Haemostasis 101, no. 01 (2009): 36–47.

Huntley, Nichole F., C. Martin Nyachoti, and John F. Patience. “Immune System Stimulation Increases Nursery Pig Maintenance Energy Requirements.” Iowa State University Animal Industry Report 14, no. 1 (2017).

Li, Jiaolong, Yongqing Hou, Dan Yi, Jun Zhang, Lei Wang, Hongyi Qiu, Binying Ding, and Joshua Gong. “Effects of Tributyrin on Intestinal Energy Status, Antioxidative Capacity and Immune Response to Lipopolysaccharide Challenge in Broilers.” Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 28, no. 12 (2015): 1784–93.

4 interventions to help feed producers cope with increasing prices

field in storm

By Technical Team, EW Nutrition

A storm has been brewing.

Even before the invasion of Ukraine in late February, global growth was expected to trend significantly downward, from 5.5-5.9% in 2021 to 4.1-4.4% in 2022 and 3.2% in 2023. The causes are similar across industries:

  • rising inflation around the world
  • supply chain issues stretching long into the foreseeable future, including exponentially higher freight costs
  • pandemic restrictions and long-lasting effects
  • rising raw material prices

In early 2022, this “perfect storm” quickly stifled the moderate optimism of Q4 2021. Of course, the worst was yet to come.

What causes sustained price increases?

With the ongoing crisis in Eastern Europe, economic perspectives are tilting down to a new level of uncertainty. The new variables now thrown into the mix are crude oil and natural gas prices, as well as added concerns over other raw materials coming out of Russia and Ukraine.

Raw materials Line Graph

Source:, March 2022

Russia accounts for 25% of the global natural gas market and 11% of the crude oil market. It is also the largest wheat exporter (China and India are still the largest producers, but Russia exports appreciably more). Together with Ukraine, also a powerhouse of agricultural exports, the two now enemies account for 29% of international annual wheat sales.

international annual wheat sales

Source: ING, March 2022

Wheat prices were already nearly double the five-year average shortly before the invasion; after February 24, they rose by another 30%. Today we are at a staggering 53% increase in wheat prices in just the last few months. We are at a 14-year peak. And the countries that import the most from Russia and Ukraine (such as Egypt or Indonesia) will bear the brunt of this crisis.

Together, Russia and Ukraine’s exports account for 12% of the world’s traded calories. The two countries account for almost 30 percent of global wheat exports, almost 20 percent of corn exports, and more than 80 percent of the world supply of sunflower oil. However, the compounded effect of embargo and devastation in the two countries will surely exert tremendous influence on the global economic outlook for years to come.

What are the perspectives?

Agriculture was already hurting before February 24th. Poor harvests caused by extreme weather conditions, continued losses along the production chain, supply chain issues, and abnormal pandemic buying patterns combined to sink global wheat stocks one third lower than the five-year average. Reserves, in other words, are low – and will be significantly lower.

We need to be realistic about the coming months and years. Corn (where Ukraine accounts for 13% of global exports) and wheat will be severely hit by the war and its aftermath. This will compound all the pre-existing factors (transportation costs, supply chain slowdown, continuing weather disruptions, energy costs), none of which will trend down. Fertilizer prices have also gone up exponentially, and Russia – the largest exporter – has banned fertilizer exports at the beginning of March. The effects will be ultimately reflected in the cost of raw materials.

Ukraine and Russia have all but banned grains exports – either for security reasons or to protect internal needs. On top of this, the last harvests collected in Ukraine are now sitting in bins where ventilation and temperature controls have been affected by power cuts.

World Bank commodity Price Data

Source: World Bank, March 2022

At the end of February, World Bank data already showed upward movement for nearly all categories; whatever was not trending up at that time is catching up fast. The last time things looked like this, experts warn, was in 2008-2009 – and social unrest followed around the world, to serious global consequences.

However, the perspective is not catastrophic and there is room to conserve profitability. The essential is to intervene with fast, targeted action that favors smart optimization, localization, and long-term planning.

What can feed producers do?

 Most feed producers will be caught in the middle of all rising costs, from raw materials to transport and energy. Where, then, can they look for shelter when the storm hits?

Optimize feed costs without losing performance

One of the first things feed producers will focus on will be cutting down feed costs. At this point, it is essential that this basic optimization does not impact animal health and performance. Here is what should be kept in mind.

Preserve feed material and feed quality

Whatever raw materials you choose to use, minimizing losses and maintaining quality should be the first step. Losses caused by storage are often the easiest to mitigate.

Quick intervention #1: Use mold inhibitors and mitigate the impact of mycotoxins

Compensate for lost nutrients (protein content, digestibility)

Freight costs will continue to cause pressure on transported raw materials, driving producers to local/regional options. When you replace one feed ingredient with a cheaper one, the first effects will be on the active principle and on the digestibility of the feed. Often something you are taking out of the diet cannot be replaced 1:1.

Quick intervention #2: Maximize the use of enzymes to ensure high feed digestibility; for poultry, pigments can replace corn-derived coloration (to control color variability)

Compensate for stress caused by diet changes

Adjusting the feed composition doesn’t only have effects on paper.

Even if you choose the best replacements, adjust the balance, compensate for loss of digestibility and optimize everything in every possible way, one thing remains:

The animal receives a new diet.

New diets are textbook stressors. But sometimes the nutritionist or the producer is so stressed that it is easy to overlook the stress placed inside the animal. Since animal efficiency is key for productivity, it is essential that the effects of diet stress are mitigated for the animal.

Quick intervention #3: Precautionary use of gut-health mitigating additives; also consider palatable feed materials and taste enhancers

Optimize production costs without losing quality

To optimize costs on the production floor, there are three essential areas where feed producers can act:

  • Saving on energy costs and reducing the carbon footprint
  • Reducing losses on the production floor
  • Increasing throughput without increasing manpower

To answer these challenges, there are solutions that can operate individually. More importantly in such times, there are products that can impact all three areas without negatively influencing the quality of output. One such solution, for instance, can decrease energy costs, increase throughput and pellet quality, and reduce fines.

Quick intervention #4: Choose a solution that satisfies 3/3 of your issues


Climate change will continue to wreak havoc on the predictability of harvests. Freight costs are projected to keep rising. And the costs of war and (hopefully) reconstruction will take a toll on the cost of living and cost of doing business around the world, for years to come.

In the storm that has already started, it is unwise to take shelter for a while and hope for good weather soon. Cutting down on ingredients here and additives there won’t keep profitability high in the long run. Feed producers must look at all aspects – from feed storage and composition to process improvement – and consider holistic measures that protect animals and profitability at the same time.

Appetizing eggs with natural pigmentation: The new-generation solution

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By Dr. Inge Heinzl, Editor, EW Nutrition

Eggs are an unparalleled source of nutrition for humans. Apart from being tasty and easy to cook, they are an essential ingredient for pasta, cakes, ice cream, and more. More importantly, they provide high-value proteins with amino acids we cannot produce, various B-vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, and trace elements.

Appetizing eggs with natural pigmentation

Assessing the value of the egg

The quality characteristics of eggs are usually divided into external features, such as:

·        egg weight
·        egg shape
·        shell structure
·        shell crack resistance
·        dynamic shell resistance
·        shell color

and internal characteristics, including:

·        albumen weight
·        Haugh unit (a measure of egg protein quality)
·        yolk height,
·        yolk diameter,
·        albumen pH,
·        yolk pH
·        yolk color

For consumers, yolk color is probably the most important criterion for egg quality. Higher color intensity often is taken as indicating the good health of the laying hen.

Depending on the region or on the culture, people prefer more yellow or more orange yolks. In countries with traditional corn feeding, e.g., Mexico, they often like a deep yellow. In Northern Europe, consumers prefer a lighter yellow; in Southern Europe, more gold-orange yolks (see table 1).

Country Yolk color fan value*
Belgium 12-13
Denmark 9-10
Finland 9-10
France 11-12
Germany 11-14
Greece 11
Italy 12-13
Netherlands 7-9
Austria 12-14
Portugal 12-14
Spain 11-14
Sweden 9-10
United Kingdom 10-11

Table 1. Egg pigmentation preferences – variation across European countries
* Values range from 1 (very pale yellow) to 16 (intense orange)

Egg yolk color is achieved via feed

The typical color of the yolk depends on pigments that are ingested with the feed. Corn and alfalfa meal provide the yellow pigments lutein and zeaxanthin, belonging to the xanthophylls, a sub-group of carotenoids. The golden-orange color is provided by red pigments from chili or paprika (Grashorn, 2008). Egg yolks start changing color about 48 h after the application of xanthophylls.

To reach an optimal yolk coloration in egg production, diets should be supplemented with yellow and red xanthophylls. Yellow xanthophylls achieve a correct yellow base coloration. The main yellow pigments used in poultry feeding are apoester, a synthetic carotenoid, and saponified marigold extracts, a natural alternative containing lutein and zeaxanthin. For the redness, paprika or chili offer natural sources; canthaxanthin is a nature-identical red xanthophyll.

For a long time, synthetic colorants were the substances of choice in the poultry industry because they provide consistently predictable results and high product stability. However, consumers’ preferences concerning food have shifted; demand favors natural over synthetic food ingredients. Moreover, current EU regulations restrict these synthetic molecules’ inclusion level due to their potentially harmful effects on human health if applied in excessive doses.

Carotenoid Maximum inclusion level
Apoester (ethyl ester of β-apo-8’-carotenoic acid) 5 ppm
Canthaxanthin (β,β-Carotene-4,4′-dione) 8 ppm

Table 2. Maximum concentration allowed in feed for poultry production

Fortunately, there is already a natural, highly efficient option to replace apoester.

Lutein: a natural colorant, antioxidant, and provider of health benefits

One of these natural compounds is lutein, a lipophilic pigment. It is extracted from marigold petals, which contain up to 8.5 mg/g wet weight. Lutein is always accompanied by its isomer zeaxanthin.

Lutein – the yolk colorant

The use of xanthophylls such as lutein and zeaxanthin enables producers to safely control the color of the egg yolk and the broiler skin. In poultry, the carotenoids are deposited in high quantities in the epidermis, the fatty tissue, and the egg yolk. According to Grashorn (2016), between 4.4-23 % of dietary lutein and 23 % of dietary zeaxanthin are deposited in the egg yolk.

Lutein – the antioxidant protects the egg lipids

Another critical characteristic of lutein is its antioxidant effect. Egg yolks contain a high fat content. Therefore, they are very susceptible to lipid oxidation. Lutein, acting as an antioxidant, can prevent or at least limit lipid oxidation during egg processing. Kljak et al. (2021) compared different sources of pigments (basil, calendula, dandelion, marigold, and an industrial product containing canthaxanthin) concerning their antioxidant capacity. In this trial, marigold improved the yolks’ oxidative stability by 75 % compared to the control, with canthaxanthin showing no antioxidant effect. Kljak et al. attributed this effect to the carotenoids in the marigold extract.

Lutein – a value-added ingredient

Lutein and its isomer are nutritionally valuable and, therefore, welcome ingredients of the eggs. Once more, due to their antioxidant effects, they play an essential role in preventing and reducing cataracts and age-related eye dysfunctionalities in humans and animals (Landrum & Bone, 2001; Wang et al., 2016).

However, the amounts of antioxidant pigments in a standard egg are not very high (approx. 400 µg/egg). Compared to the total amount of antioxidants ingested, their importance for humans is only limited (Grashorn, 2008). The situation is different for functional eggs, which are widely sold in certain English-speaking countries. These eggs are enriched with n-3 fatty acids and with antioxidants such as ß-carotene (approx. 150 IE/egg).

Can natural pigments be as effective as synthetic apoester?

The precondition for the deposition of lutein in the egg or the skin is its absorption in the intestine. This absorption makes the difference between the synthetic apoester and the traditional yellow natural xanthophylls (lutein/zeaxanthin). In the case of traditional yellow xanthophylls, about three parts of the product are necessary to achieve the same effectiveness as one part of apoester.

With special technology owned by EW Nutrition, it is possible to improve the absorption of natural carotenoids and, therefore, the efficacy of lutein products. Only about 1.25 parts are then needed to replace one part of apoester.

Trial 1: A new generation of pigment products as effective as apoester

A trial was conducted in Spain to compare the effectiveness of apoester and a new generation natural pigment in combination with canthaxanthin.

For the trial, 288 layers (Hy-Line Brown, 39 weeks of age) were divided into 12 groups with 8 replications and 3 hens per replication. The trial consisted of a 7-week xanthophyll depletion and a 4-week experimental phase. The products included in the trial were a natural lutein product produced with a unique absorption-improving technology (Colortek Yellow, CTY), the synthetic xanthophyll apoester, and canthaxanthin. Three yolk color fan (YCF) targets were tested (10, 11, and 12).

For canthaxanthin, 1.5, 2.0, and 3.0 ppm were used. Within these groups of three different canthaxanthin concentrations, different concentrations of Colortek Yellow and apoester were applied to an otherwise xanthophyll-free diet:

Group YCF target Ratio CTY/APO Yellow pigment source Dose yellow TX* (ppm) Dose red CTX** (ppm)





x 1.00

x 1.25

x 1.50














x 1.00

x 1.25

x 1.50














x 1.00

x 1.25

x 1.50










Table 3. Trial design | *   TX= total xanthophylls | ** CTX = Canthaxanthin

The colors of the egg yolks were measured with the help of the DSM egg yolk color fan.

Figure 1 shows that Colortek Yellow at a 1.25 fold concentration as apoester (3.13 ppm) provided the same result as apoester regarding YCF target 11 (= canthaxanthin concentration of 2.00 ppm). In the case of YCF target 12 (= canthaxanthin concentration of 3.00 ppm), the same yolk color as apoester could be achieved using Colortek Yellow at a 1.25 or 1.5-fold concentration as apoester. Furthermore, it could be seen that the recommendations for apoester were overestimated and yielded color results 1 point above the target.

Egg yolk color values achieved by the use of apoester

Figure 1. Egg yolk color values achieved by the use of apoester (APO) and different concentrations of Colortek Yellow (CTY)
* a, b, c, d: different superscripts mean statistical difference (P<0.05)

Can lutein be as stable as synthetic pigments like apoester?

Another potential disadvantage of natural pigments is lower stability. By accelerating saponification in a continuous process, producing a product with low moisture and a high content of xanthophylls is possible. This process leads to higher stability of the product and prolongs the shelf life.

Trial 2: New generation pigment shows better stability than apoester

In this trial, the stability of products containing either a new generation natural colorant (Colortek Yellow) or apoester was tested. A vitamin-mineral premix containing 12.5 % choline chloride and one of the tested products were stored in closed bags at 30 °C and 75 % relative humidity. The recovery of the substances was tested after one, two, and three months.

The trial shows higher recovery rates for Colortek Yellow than for apoester at a longer storage time (Figure 2). This new technology, therefore, provides natural pigments with higher stability than products containing synthetic apoester.

Recovery rates of apoester and Colortek Yellow after different times of storage (%)

Figure 2. Recovery rates of apoester and Colortek Yellow after different times of storage (%)

New-generation natural pigments beat traditional synthetic options

The trend towards natural food ingredients also affects egg yolk color: consumers want natural alternatives to get their preferred yolk color, and regulators are imposing ever stricter limits on synthetic additives. Natural pigments have historically had two limiting characteristics compared to synthetic ones, their lower absorption and their lower stability. Due to new technologies, natural pigmentation products such as Colortek Yellow can now offer absorption rates comparable to apoester and even higher stability – making them the optimal replacement for synthetic colorants.



Grashorn, M. “Eiqualität.” In Legehuhnzucht und Eiererzeugung. Empfehlungen für die Praxis (special issue 322) edited by W. Brade, G. Flachowsky, and L. Schrader, 18-33. Landbauforschung – vTI Agriculture and Forestry Research, 2008

Grashorn, M. “Feed additives for influencing chicken meat and egg yolk color.” In Handbook on Natural Pigments in Food and Beverages. Industrial Applications for Improving Food Color, edited by R. Carle and R.M. Schweiggert, 283-302. Woodhead Publishing, 2016.

Kljak, K., K. Carović-Stanko, I. Kos, Z. Janječić , G. Kiš, M. Duvnjak, T. Safner, and D. Bedeković. “Plant carotenoids as pigment sources in laying hen diets: effect on yolk color, carotenoid content, oxidative stability and sensory properties of eggs.” Foods 10, no. 4 (2021):721

Landrum, J. T. and R.A. Bone. “Lutein, zeaxanthin, and the macular pigment.” Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics 385 no. 1 (2001): 28–40.

Wang, W., J., C. Moore, J. Jackson, and K. Narfström. “Antioxidant supplementation increases retinal responses and decreases refractive error changes in dogs.” J. Nutr. Sci. 5 e18 (2016): 7 pages


Mycotoxin Monitoring Update: Fall 2021 Essentials

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By Vinil Samraj Padmini, Global Category Manager Feed Quality, and Marisabel Caballero, Global Technical Manager Poultry, EW Nutrition

Climate across the globe has changed, with rising atmospheric temperatures and carbon dioxide levels. This change favors the growth of toxigenic fungi in crops and thus increases the risk of mycotoxin contamination. When contaminating feed, mycotoxins exert adverse effects in animals and could be transferred into products such as milk and eggs.

Mycotoxin Monitoring

95% of the samples were contaminated with at least one mycotoxin

EW Nutrition constantly analyzes feed and raw material samples for their mycotoxin contamination. We report challenges from the most common mycotoxins hindering animal health around the globe.

Worldwide, more than 4,000 analyses on more than 1,000 samples were performed between June – October of the present year. The samples covered grain and by-products commonly used in animal feed worldwide. Figure 1 shows the percentage of the samples tested for which a positive result was found, detailing the number of mycotoxins per sample.

Mycotoxins per sample world-wide
Click to enlarge

The number of mycotoxins analyzed per sample can vary based on regional risk-evaluation, including weather conditions, raw material origin and past frequency of positives. However, a minimum number of samples per region is always analyzed for the full spectrum, in order to monitor and corroborate the risk level.

3 or more mycotoxins per sample

95% of the samples were contaminated with at least one mycotoxin. In Europe and Latin America, most samples were analyzed for up to five mycotoxins, and were found contaminated with at least two. In South Asia, three mycotoxins were regularly analyzed per sample and most samples were positive for two. Worldwide, it is common to find samples with 3 or more mycotoxins, indicating that, even in raw materials, poly-contamination is the rule.

Aflatoxin: Main concern for South Asia

From all samples tested positively for mycotoxin contamination, 55% were contaminated with Aflatoxins. In all regions, the maximum levels lay over the thresholds for dairy and poultry. In Europe, less than 20% of the samples were contaminated with Aflatoxin. In Europe and the USA, the average contamination is low, hence this toxin can hardly be considered an issue for animal production in those areas (Figure 2).

In South Asia, where high temperatures and humidity are prevalent, Aflatoxin was detected in more than 95% of the samples and the average contamination is over all thresholds. Management strategies, such as the use of mold inhibitors for stored grain and toxin binders in feed, are necessary in this area to keep animals healthy and productive.

Aflatoxin: Main concern for South Asia
Click to enlarge


Aflatoxins have a negative impact on animal performance, as they affect the function of liver and kidney, alter the immune function, and impair protein synthesis. This affects weight gain, feed efficiency and mortality. Carryover into milk, eggs and edible organs is possible with high or chronic intake of the toxin.

Fumonisins: Main concern for LATAM, also global

Fumonisin was found in 70% of the samples globally and roughly in 90% of the samples coming from Latin America (figure 3). Moreover, in LATAM, more than 50% of the results have values over the threshold for dairy and swine, and 14% over the threshold for poultry, making it a great concern in the area. South Asia is the second concern area, with a high proportion of contaminated samples (80%) and 14% of them representing a danger for poultry production.

Main concern for LATAM, also global
Click to enlarge


The main issue with the typical contamination levels of fumonisins – often considered of low risk – is their capacity to disrupt gut health. As their absorption is low, fumonisins interact with other toxins and the gut barrier components, including those affecting immunity and the microbiome. They are known to decrease the available surface for nutrient digestion and absorption, and to increase the risk and incidence of gut-related diseases. As a result, lower productivity is expected in animals exposed to even low levels of this toxin.

Deoxynivalenol (DON): Present worldwide

All across the regions, the maximum tested levels lay over the threshold for dairy, poultry, and swine. This trichothecene was found in more than 70% of the samples analyzed worldwide. In the United States, more than 75% of the positive tested samples showed a contamination with DON and the average of the positives exceeded the thresholds for swine and poultry.

The region with highest maximum values is LATAM, followed by South Asia, and the region with the highest frequency of positives in analyzed samples is Europe. Thus, it can be concluded that the worldwide frequency and levels in which DON is found represent a high risk for production animals.

Deoxynivalenol (DON): Present worldwide
Click to enlarge


Deoxynivalenol shows a broad spectrum of toxic effects in animals. In poultry and swine, for instance, this mycotoxin is related to lesions in the gastrointestinal tract and alterations in the immune response. This, in turn, leads to lower productivity and poor feed efficiency. DON also interacts with the microbiome, and it is known that it favors the colonization of coliform bacteria in pigs.

Ruminants can tolerate 10–20 times more DON than, for example, pigs. The majority of ingested DON is converted into the less toxic de-epoxy DON, but the degradation rate is influenced by different factors such as the diet, where high starch decrease the process. Moreover, DON also has a detrimental effect on rumen microorganisms, impacting its fermentative capacity.

T2: A danger for poultry producers word-wide

Average levels of T2 were over the threshold for poultry in all regions, with a high presence (>70% of the analyzed samples) in Europe, the US & LATAM.

T2: A danger for poultry producers word-wide
Click to enlarge


T-2 s is a potent inhibitor of protein synthesis, which affects actively dividing cells, such as the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, skin, and immune cells. The consequences include weight loss or poor weight gain, diarrhea, skin and beak lesions, and decreased production.

T-2 is de-epoxidated in the rumen to HT-2 and neosolaniol, which are significantly less toxic than the parent toxin. In acidotic animals, rumen detoxification of T-2 toxin is impaired and animals may show gastroenteritis and intestinal hemorrhages.

Zearalenone: 80% positive tests globally

More than 80% of all samples tested for this mycotoxin were found positive. The maximum contaminations lay over the thresholds for dairy and swine. These high levels found should not be ignored, considering feedstuffs for long living and reproduction animals.

Zearalenone: 80% positive tests globally
Click to enlarge


Especially in pig breeding, Zearalenone is an important issue, due to its high absorption and rapid biotransformation into more estrogenic components. Its structural similarity with 17β-estradiol leads this toxin to impair reproductive performance in cows and sows.

Recent studies point to interactions of Zearalenone with immune cells and organs in animals, leading to alterations in cell viability, proliferation, and functionality. Consequences are alterations of the immune response, enhancing the effects of other challenges.

A bad year for crops could be a bad year for production animals

The high mycotoxin contamination found so far in 2021 is partially explained by climate events, such as high temperature and humidity. Temperate zones such as Europe or parts of the USA tend to have higher contaminations compared with previous years.

Multiple mycotoxins co-occur, increasing their impact on animals. Certain combinations of mycotoxins are known to have synergistic or additive effects, aggravating their adverse effects.

To safeguard animal performance, it is important to continually strive for low levels of contamination and to manage the risk of mycotoxins through the use effective tools to measure, interpret, and manage the risk. MasterRisk can aid in the interpretation of mycotoxin risks, weighing in the animal species, age, purpose, as well as the mycotoxin exposure and interactions.

The 3 critical factors for successful pigmentation

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By Predrag Persak, Regional Technical Manager, EW Nutrition

We eat with our eyes. Depending on our cultural background and our experience, we prefer foods that have a certain appearance. Moreover, we regulate our taste and health expectations based on this appearance. In that equation, color plays an essential role. Think of healthy-looking salad, fruit, eggs, meat, and more. Certain foods are more appetizing and appear healthier – and, in many cases, are indeed so – when they display a certain color.

For poultry producers,  skin color and the yolk color of table eggs are of major concern. This concern is driven by the market (in certain regions,  skin and yolk pigmentation heavily affect buying preferences), by regulations, and by an interest in using all options to increase product quality with natural solutions.

critical factors for successful pigmentation


Where does poultry pigmentation come from?

Birds cannot synthesize pigments; they must take them up with their feed. Natural pigments have, besides their pigmenting properties, an antioxidant role in the bird’s organism. Unfavorable conditions can heavily influence the outcome of pigmentation. For producers looking to achieve reliable and consistent coloration, results are often unpredictable and disappointing.

Knowing the factors that affect pigmentation will help us to better understand how to achieve the desired level of pigmentation – or to identify, in hindsight what went wrong and when. In general, three different factors are decisive for efficient pigmentation:

  1. The quality of the product (type, content, and stability of the pigment)
  2. The amount of pigment ingested/absorbed/deposited
  3. The persistence of the pigment in the final product

1. Product quality is essential

The first point to be considered is the quality of the product you use, including type, content, and stability of the pigment in the product and the feed.

Content and quality of active substances determine efficacy

Concerning type and content, what matters more than the total amount of carotenoids is the level of active substances. The trans-isomers have higher efficiency than the cis-isomers and are decisive for pigmentation.

Natural pigments originate from natural sources that often vary due to growth conditions, harvest, and handling. Therefore, producers need to control incoming materials and conduct proper formulation during the production process. This is crucial in order to obtain an adequate level of pigments for appropriate pigmentation.

Adequate measures ensure the stability of the pigment in the product

Natural pigments are sensitive to light and air; they are easily oxidized. Also in the feed formulation there are many substances (e.g. oxidized forms of trace elements, choline, chloride) enhancing the oxidation of the pigments. Some precautions can be taken to protect natural pigments from oxidation:

  • Use of adequate package materials preventing the exposure to light and air
  • Use of antioxidants in the product as well as in the feed formulation

With these measures in place, the pigments are given adequate protection to ensure their stability.

2. Pigment intake, absorption, and deposition affect pigmentation

Every factor reducing the amount of pigment reaching its target deteriorates the quality of pigmentation. Below are the crucial factors producers need to take into account.

Feed intake is correlated to pigment intake

Assuming that the pigment is homogeneously distributed in the feed, feed intake directly determines the intake of pigment. Consequently, anything that affects feed intake also affects pigment intake and pigmentation. To that end, what is also decisive is particle size and homogeneous distribution of the pigment in the product.

The energy concentration in the feed is also a critical factor. Antinutrients, unpleasant taste, or inconsistent feed structure negatively influence feed intake.

Feed intake is also influenced by other elements:

  • the animal’s health status
  • environmental conditions
  • the availability of water
  • the housing system (free-range, farm)
  • feeding management factors (length of the feeding lines, separation of the feed in silo bins or through the feeding lines etc.).

Saponification plays a role in pigment absorption

Through saponification, the natural, esterified form of the pigment gets broken down and the pigment is separated from the fatty acid molecule. This step is necessary to enable the pigment to pass the intestinal wall. The higher the saponification, the better the bioavailability of the pigment.

Besides improving bioavailability, saponification also influences the particle size and the homogeneous distribution of the pigment particles in the product.

Some feed materials and nutrients influence pigment absorption

If pigments are used, it is essential to know that some feed materials or nutrients have a beneficial or adverse effect on the absorption or deposition of the pigments. The inclusion of saturated, low-digestible fats or fat sources decreases pigment absorption and, therefore, the efficacy of pigmentation, whereas unsaturated fats (oils) facilitate it. The addition of oil up to 5% linearly increases pigment deposition in the egg.

Nutrients such as Calcium or Vitamin A also change pigment absorption. In the case of calcium, the level and the source are decisive. High levels of fast soluble limestone or calcium levels higher than 4 % will decrease the absorption. Also, increased levels of Vitamin A are critical for the effectiveness of deposition, as Vitamin A and the pigment use the same transporters. This fact is very important in broilers if vitamin A addition is applied through the water.

Mycotoxins affect feed intake and absorption

Mycotoxins affect feed intake and absorption

The presence of mycotoxins in feed, especially DON, will reduce feed intake due to the bad taste. The gut health-impacting effect of the mycotoxins will increase the passage rate of the feed and will prevent adequate absorption through the intestinal wall. Additionally, the liver function is negatively impacted by the mycotoxins. This results in an affected serum transport and a lower storage capacity for the pigments, leading to lower deposition in the tissue.

Impacted gut health is bad for pigmentation, too

Good gut health is essential for good pigmentation, including the uptake/absorption of pigments, their deposition, but also already existing pigmentation. All health challenges that negatively affect digestion and absorption, such as dysbiosis, negatively influence pigment availability and pigmentation. In such cases, products or strategies improving digestibility and gut integrity can be a solution.

Specific diseases such as NCD, Coryza, helminthiasis, as well as coccidiosis are an important consideration. The first three diseases lower pigment deposition; coccidiosis, however, has multiple impacts. It not only affects digestion and absorption and, therefore, the ongoing pigmentation but also decreases the already existing one.

Coccidia cause damage to the intestinal wall and affect its activity, resulting in a lower absorption. Additionally, the animals lose weight due to an insufficient supply of energy. The consequence is a degradation of fat tissue where the pigments are stored. Furthermore, coccidiosis means oxidative stress for the animal – triggering a reaction of the organism. As pigments also serve as antioxidants, they are removed from the fatty tissues and used as antioxidants.

Within three days post-infection, pigment levels in the subcutaneous tissues, but also in the serum and the liver, drop to 0. Coccidiosis outbreaks occur more frequently in alternative housing systems, affecting broilers, but also laying hens. Paying close attention to coccidiosis and having a proper anticoccidial program in place is obligatory for good pigmentation.

3. Pigmentation ends when the final products are on the shelf

For the end consumer, an attractive color in the final products (such as pasta or the broiler carcass) is essential. Producers of these final products request to put more pigments into the feed, but is this always the solution? As described before, there are a lot of factors possibly impacting the process of pigmentation during animal production on the farm.

However, also in the pasta factory or in the slaughterhouse, pigmentation of the final products can be impacted. In the pasta factory, oxidizing enzymes can destroy the pigments making the pasta pale and unattractive. If they have issues with Salmonella in the slaughterhouse, the birds may be scalded in slightly hotter water. The defeathering afterward can cause the loss of the upper layer of the skin with the pigments.

These examples show why pigmentation is not just the responsibility of the animal producer, but rather continues up to the moment when the pasta or meat is ready for the consumer.

Control these 3 factors for best pigmentation results


Pigmentation is a dynamic process that requires knowledge and attention. The better we control the influences, the more consistent and predictable the outcome. To that end, it is essential to use the product with the best quality, the best amount of pigment that can be not just ingested, but also absorbed and deposited, and with the best persistence in the final product and along its shelf life.

Keeping everything under control is not always possible or is extremely difficult. That is why choosing the right product is a vital link that will allow us to pay more attention to those things that we can find difficult to manage.

To meet all these demands, Colortek Yellow B is the best natural yellow pigment on the market. This highly concentrated natural yellow evidences optimal flowability, homogeneous mixing in feed and high stabilit, for reliable and consistent results. In addition, it boasts high bioavailability and is produced in the EU in a state-of-the art facility, with FAMI-QS certification and strict control of undesirable substances.