Contaminants and toxic substances
Since proteins and lipids from fish are highly degradable, adequate processing has to be achieved in order to prevent protein breakdown into biogenic amines (especially histamines) or fatty acids breakdown into oxidized compounds. Bacterial development, although low, should be avoided given the low levels of moisture and the absence of carbohydrates. Cooking fish meal above 80°C normally destroys bacteria but the whole chain-process is susceptible to re-infection: high air-temperature must be reached in the dryers, external sources of contamination (rodents, birds, flies and insects) must be eliminated, and storage buildings must be dry (no condensation) and clean (FAO, 1986).
Fish meal is also susceptible to chemical contamination with harmful substances (chlorinated hydrocarbons: dieldrin, lindane, PCBs, dioxins) (Erne et al., 1979), due to the accumulation of those anthropogenic substances in the marine food chain and finally in the fatty tissues of fish used for the manufacture of fish meal. The levels of such contaminants (PCBs, dioxins) in fish meal depend on the fish source: fish meals from Central America have lower levels than those from the Northern hemisphere (New et al., 2002).
A toxic substance called gizzerosine is formed when fish meal is directly dried at 180°C (vs. 140°C) in order to improve fish meal productivity. Gizzerosine is detrimental to poultry as it causes gizzard erosion and black vomit (Hinrichsen et al., 1997). This problem can be avoided if steam is used to dry fish meal (Sugahara, 1995).
Ban in ruminant nutrition
Fish meal has been banned in the European Union since 2000 in ruminant nutrition but remains authorized for pigs, poultry and fish (European Commission, 2001). It was re-authorized in 2009 to make milk replacers for young ruminants (European Commission, 2009). Fish meal is banned in Australia under the Ruminant Feed Ban (AHA, 2014).
Although the use of fish meal is prohibited for ruminants in the European Union and in other countries, it is a valuable source of by-pass protein (cooking fish causes protein binding) and is thus used as a by-pass protein.
In lactating cows, when compared to other sources of undegradable protein such as soybean meal or cottonseed meal, fish meal gave higher results (Broderick, 2005; Broderick et al., 2000; Korhonen et al., 2002), improving amino acid balance and reducing N excretion (Ohgi, 2004; Abu-Ghazaleh et al., 2001; Schroeder et al., 2000).
Cows’ response to fish meal protein is improved by urea treatment in a rice straw-based diet (Talukder et al., 1990; Khan et al., 1990). Fish meal resulted in increases in milk yield and protein yield in dairy cows (Malleson et al., 2008; Ibarra et al., 2006; Broderick, 2004; Ohgi, 2004; Yeo et al., 2003; Korhonen et al., 2002; Hill et al., 1999; Wright et al., 1998), especially if the forage:concentrate ratio is high (Pike et al., 1994). However, several papers referring to low inclusion levels reported that it had no effect on milk yield or milk protein content (Moussavi et al., 2008; Moussavi et al., 2007; Serbester et al., 2005; Allison et al., 2002).
Fish meal also enhanced the response of cows to high milking frequency (Yeo et al., 2003) and reduced PGF2α concentration that could have been responsible for early abortion in lactating cows (Mattos et al., 2002), thus inducing higher conception rates (Staples et al., 1998). Feeding fish meal may also increase milk n-3 fatty-acid content (Abu-Ghazaleh et al., 2001).
In Sheep, the undegradable protein content of fish meal improves forage intake. Inclusion levels range from 2.5% in lambs to 7.5% in milking ewes (FIN, 2000). High protein content improves immune status: feeding ewes with fishmeal during late pregnancy decreased worm infestation and thus reduced the use of anthelmintics (Donaldson et al., 1998).
Fish meal supplementation increases reproduction performance in ewes: conception rates, lamb litter weight, lamb weight and vigour at birth, including colostrum and heat production (Vipond et al., 1996; Robinson et al., 1989; Robinson et al., 1999). Milking ewes supplemented with fish meal produced more milk. Fish meal also improved live-weight gains in early weaned lambs grazing tall fescue (Poppi et al., 1988).
Fish meal has a high biological value for pigs. Protein of fish meal is of good quality: it has a high methionine content and the protein is highly digestible. Its contents in vitamins, n-3 fatty acids and minerals are very valuable for pigs. Levels of incorporation vary from 5 to 10% in piglet feeds to about 3% in feeds for finishers or sows (FIN, 2000; Patience et al., 1995).
Different studies proved that fish meal is beneficial in starters and weaned pigs at rates below 10% (Lopes et al., 2007; Zivkovic et al., 2007; Kats et al., 1992; Aas et al., 1984). Inclusion rates higher than 10% were not economically viable (Patience et al., 1995). Fish meal is also reported to be hypoallergenic to piglets and was found to decrease diarrhoea during post-weaning (Gore et al., 1990). It could be useful in low health status piglets to improve daily gain (Bergstrom et al., 1997).
Fish meal is an interesting concentrated protein source for poultry, particularly in situations where land animal by-products have been banned in poultry feeds. Fish meal has a high biological value in poultry, not only as a protein source but also as source of minerals, such as P and Ca, and trace elements such as Se or I. However, the high prices of fish meal limit the inclusion levels and those remain around or below 5% (Blair, 2008; Chadd, 2008).
Including fish meal in broilers diets increases body weight, daily weight gain and feed intake. Fish meal has greater impact on growing broilers than on starters. It is highly valuable to young turkeys. In laying hens and broilers, inclusion of fish meal may cause a fishy taste in eggs and meat (Blair, 2008).
Fish meal is a valuable feedstuff for rabbits. Due to its cost, there have been several attempts to replace it by less expensive products: it was possible to totally or partially replace fish meal with quinoa grain, blood meal, extruded hatchery wastes, meat meal and poultry viscera meal (Lebas, 2004).
Given that the indispensable amino acid profile of fish meal reflects that of the ideal protein pattern for fish or shrimp, fish meal is a major protein source in aquaculture. Protein digestibility of good quality fish meal is very high with equally high amino acid availability (Anderson et al., 1995). Fish meal is also a source of essential fatty acids, minerals and trace elements.
Currently available data show that out of the 6 million tons of fish meal available globally, more than 65% is used in feeds for fish and crustacean farming. The levels of incorporation of fish meal can range from 40 to 60% in feeds for marine fish to less than 5% in feeds for carp, catfish or tilapia (Tacon et al., 2008). Most cyprinids (carp) reared in semi-intensive ponds are fed with feeds practically devoid of fish meal. In recent years, much progress has been made towards the substitution of fish meal by mixtures of different plant protein sources even in intensively-reared salmonids or marine finfish, thus leading to significant economy as well as addressing sustainability issues (Kaushik, 1990; Kaushik et al., 2004; Kaushik et al., 2008).
Like fish feed, feeds for marine or freshwater shrimp contain high levels of fish meal (up to 40%). However, plant ingredients are being increasingly incorporated as an alternative to fish meals, or other marine-derived protein sources such as shrimp meal or squid meal, in order to ensure the sustainable development of shrimp farming (Amaya et al., 2008).
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