European Fishmeal Producers Deliver Valuable Ingredients from Offcuts and Pelagic Fish
Fishmeal and fish oil constitute an important strategic feed ingredient for the aquaculture and agriculture. With their functional properties, high quality, and traceability these ingredients enhance the circular economy both on a Danish and a European level.
We are stronger when we stand together. This is the philosophy in the European non-governmental organization European Fishmeal and Fish Oil Producers (EFFOP), who represents the interests of the European fishmeal and fish oil producers.
Fish as raw material to feed ingredients
Fishmeal and oil are produced primarily from pelagic fish that live in the water column in large shoals and are not used for food production. In Europe, it is typically the fish species capelin, sandeel, blue whiting, sprat as well as offcuts and residues from the fishing industry that are involved in the processing of fishmeal and oil. Fisheries are regulated by quotas based on biological recommendations from ICES and subsequently adopted politically. This is essential for the conservation of marine biological ecosystems. The recommendations are based on the amount of fish that can be taken out of the fish stock to continue to ensure its sustainable reproduction, and new quotas are set for all stocks each year. Continuous quality control at the factories ensures fresh raw materials and traceable products that comply with quality requirements and safety standards throughout the distribution chain.
Fishmeal and oil are typically included as a strategic feed ingredient for farming of salmon, trout, etc., but are also used as feed in pig and chicken production as well as for pet feed. Fish oil is primarily used as a feed ingredient for fish farming and for human nutrition.
Fishmeal and fish oil contribute with unique properties
Fishmeal and oil are very valuable feed ingredients due to their high content of essential amino acids, minerals, phosphorus lipids and omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are key components of the cell membrane and play an important role in ensuring optimal growth, physical health and good reproductive ability in connection with animal nutrition. Omega-3 fatty acids are also recognized for their health-promoting properties for both animal and human nutrition. Despite the many health effects, it is not always easy to be a fishmeal producer, explains Anne Mette Bæk, director of European Fishmeal and Fish Oil Producers, which is the European industry's joint industry association.
"In addition to the current energy prices - which obviously affect us all - the industry is subject to a cobweb of traceability requirements, various sustainability certifications and a comprehensive regulatory framework from both the EU and individual countries that do not always harmonize. The challenges are many, but they are common, and that is why it is so important that we as an industry work together on the solutions. In fact, it has never been more important”
Utilizing the whole fish
The fishery for industrial fish - that is, the fish that consumers do not bother to eat - is close to being fully exploited in Europe, and this has given the industry an increased incentive to focus even more on the circular economy by utilizing the offcuts from the fish that consumers do bother to eat. For example, when you fillet a herring and cut it into pieces for the Christmas table, only about half of the fish is eaten. But instead of throwing heads and tails in the trash, fishmeal producers across Europe are collecting the offcuts and refining them into strategic feed ingredients in demand by feed manufacturers for salmon, pigs, or pets worldwide.
At the European level, there is an increasing focus on optimizing the utilization of these raw materials, which provides value for consumers by being included as a feed ingredient for e.g., salmon farming. There is no omega-3 fatty acid in the salmon if it does not get it through the feed. Not only is omega-3 fatty acid essential for salmon health, it also has a wide range of health effects for humans who, like salmon, can only get omega-3 through food. In that way, the fish offcuts and the hard-to-sell industrial fish ends up on the plate anyway and benefit the consumer.