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“Cheap Enough To Feed” Means You Get What You Pay For

Ingredient Metrics

Putting together a diet formulation for animal production – balancing performance goals with economic considerations – is something we discuss here on a regular basis.  We periodically provide tips to help you do this, and it can be tempting to fall into the least-cost mindset where ingredient price is all that matters.  Indeed, I heard an expression recently that I had not heard for some time.  Speaking about selection of ingredients for a formulation, the idea that each one has to be “cheap enough to feed” reared its ugly head.

You see this approach often when you get to see commercial formulations like I do.  A fairly standard formulation comprised mostly of common ingredients, like corn and soybean meal, contains several other ingredients at low inclusion levels.  Often, these are co-products of some industrial process, like DDGS from the corn ethanol industry, or bakery waste from the baking industry.  Other times, you might see an oilseed meal from an industrial veg oil extraction process that uses hexane to remove the oil – a process that from the beginning was designed to maximize oil extraction (not meal quality).  It’s worse if the meal is from a seed with high fiber and lower protein, like sunflower or safflower.  The use of these meals will work to dilute total dietary protein levels, and some species cannot digest fiber effectively, like poultry.  The result of this approach could easily be reduced growth performance and more days to market – typically a profit killer for animal agriculture industries.

But, these ingredients are available and usually are “cheap enough to feed”, or at least that’s the thinking.

We’ve shown on the Insta-Pro blog before the variable and low-quality nature of DDGS from corn ethanol plants (see here and here).  And, just try to imagine something like bakery waste from an industrial baker – the off-spec and discarded loaves of bread will not be the same from day to day.

While it’s often fine to take this approach in a limited, risk-averse way, this highlights the need for high-quality ingredients to help counterbalance any negative consequences of choosing “cheap enough to feed” ingredients, such as reduced or variable growth performance and feed efficiency.  High-quality ingredients, such as high-shear dry extruded soy and dry extruded/pressed (ExPress®) soy meals, are those that arise from a predictable, controllable, and animal research-backed process.

Furthermore, many times, the use of a single, high-quality ingredient – that often costs more – will help reduce total diet costs in a complete formulation.  How is this possible?  Using a better ingredient often means that two or more inferior ingredients – from the “cheap enough to feed” variety – can now be minimized or removed from the formulation.

Please ask us how this can be, and we’ll be happy to discuss.  You really can get what you pay for when selecting ingredients.