Transforming the global animal feed industry


    UEA researchers have been working with one of the world’s largest animal feed enzyme businesses to engineer ‘next generation’ enzymes for the industry.

    Phytate is the major source of phosphate found in the grains, oil seeds and beans of common animal feeds. Non-ruminant animals (those with a single stomach, like pigs and chickens) have a limited ability to digest dietary phytate and, as a consequence, it’s left behind. This is harmful to animal nutrition because it interferes with protein digestion and micronutrient uptake and, to make matters worse, undigested phytate can also lead to serious environmental pollution. 

    To counter this loss, phytases are added to 95% of commercial poultry feeds across the globe. Phytases are enzymes that effectively degrade phytate and precisely how they do this is a question that Prof Charles Brearley, Professor of Biochemistry at UEA, has answered with research that has had a major impact on the global animal feed industry.

    The introduction of ‘superdosing’

    When Prof Brearley started working with AB Vista in 2013, he hoped to determine the optimal dosing of phytase for animal production. He soon recognised that the real value of so-called ‘superdosing’ – increasing does of phytase – stemmed from the release of inositol, historically considered a vitamin. Prof Brearley’s research has led to a better understanding of the extent to which animal growth performance is attributable to inositol.

    The results for AB Vista have been transformative. Prof Brearley’s research has had significant impacts on the company’s commerce, marketing behaviour, technology adoption and production and influenced a shift in the company’s R&D strategy. As a consequence, AB Vista is now one of the three largest animal feed enzyme suppliers in the world.

    The research undertaken at UEA has enabled AB Vista to move from being the sixth or seventh largest enzyme supplier in the world to being the second or third in the last seven years." - Mike Bedford, Research Director, AB Vista

    ‘The credibility that UEA research brings to our products means that customers who are at the forefront of technology are far more likely to buy from us,’ said Mike Bedford, Research Director at AB Vista. ‘Charles’ analysis of inositol phosphates and inositol, his further development of methods suitable for tissues and organs and his interaction with our other academic partners contributes to our literature, presentations and conferences, informing existing customers regarding their use of our products, and keeping them abreast of technological developments.’

    Prof Brearley’s work has also influenced holistic changes at AB Vista. ‘His analytical expertise with inositol phosphates and inositol has provided a route to analysis that was not available to us before on a scale relevant to our needs,’ said Mike. ‘In order to be able to respond rapidly to industry needs, we are now investing heavily in Charles’ methodologies in our analytical services division in the UK’.  

    Indeed, Prof Brearley’s work has turned industry on its head, and his research has benefitted both competitors and customers in the poultry and pig industry. His research on the role of inositol in two muscle diseases in chicken – Woody Breast and White Striping – promise substantial future benefits to the industry and opportunities relating to phytate are abundant. 

    ‘Estimates suggest the anti-nutritional effects of phytate could be costing the industry as much as €2 billion per year in lost performance,’ said the Global Sales Director at AB Vista. ‘The potential still to be captured from near-complete phytate destruction is as high as €5 per tonne of feed manufactured.’

    Read on: Feeding animals sustainably




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