Poultry International - April 2018 - 34
34 ❙ PoultryInternational
Fish meal in poultry diets:
to use, or not to use?
Once a staple ingredient in poultry diets, today it is considered
either an expensive luxury or an unavoidable necessity,
but where does the truth lie?
Once upon a time, good quality fish meal was
US$500 per imperial ton, or thereabouts, and everyone
was using it. Poultry diets invariably contained 5 percent
fish meal, with early broiler feeds and layer diets having
as much as 10 percent. What prevented most nutritionists from using even more fish meal in poultry diets was
not cost, but its concentration in fish oil.
With 10 percent oil, adding 10 percent fish meal in
any diet gives 1 percent fish oil, which is the maximum
poultry will tolerate before they start rejecting feed or
producing eggs with "fishy" aroma. In fact, it was not
so much the fishy aroma of feeds that caused broilers
go off feed easily but rather the rapidity with which fish
oil became rancid - and stale fish oil really stinks!
But, again, fish meal was an indispensable ingredient in
poultry diets, to the point most nutritionists claimed the
"factor-X," or unknown nutrient in fish meal, that was
yet to be identified - perhaps they were right, but we
will never find out now.
Why fish meal was so popular?
Fish meal was so popular because the ratio of price
to nutritive value was exceptional. At a price that today
is closer to full-fat soybeans, fish meal offered double
(almost) the protein, a better amino acid profile and a
boost in feed intake that was not to be found in other
ingredients. When feed intake, for any reason, was a
problem, nutritionists always considered increasing the
concentration of fish meal. In fact, one of the ingredients
that helped in the transition to antibiotic-free feeds was
fish meal, used in levels reaching sometimes up to 15
percent. But, back then, fish meal was always of good
quality and always inexpensive - in other words, good
quality fish meal was readily available. Not that lower
quality fish meal was not there, but it was used in other
outlets, or in older animals.
Today, good quality fish meal costs from US$1,500
to US$2,000 dollars per imperial ton. The actual price is
not important - as there is nothing we can do about it
- but the magnitude of increase is staggering: three to
four times more expensive. The reasons are many, and it
suffices to say that aquafeeds and pet foods on one hand,
with over-fishing on the other hand, have caused an
increase in demand and decrease in offer - the perfect
combination for prices to raise in previously unimagi-
Depleted stocks of wild fish are causing fish
meal prices to soar. Melvinlee | Dreamstime.com
www.WATTAgNet.com ❙ April 2018