Today's European farmers expect feed they buy to be safe as well healthy and sustainable. This requires specialty ingredients that can texturize, flavour, emulsify, preserve – just think about preservatives preventing feed from deteriorating too rapidly - … and even add an additional healthy and nutritious dimension for poultry, pigs, cattle, calves, rabbits, etc..
In general a specialty feed ingredient is a product which provides a particular effect/function in a relatively concentrated form. These functions can be:
1. Technological: when it influences the technological aspects of the feed. This does not directly influence the nutritional value of the feed but may do indirectly by improving its handling or hygiene characteristics, for example. An example of such an additive would be an organic acid for preservation of feed.
2. Sensory: when it improves the palatability of a diet by stimulating appetite. This is due to an effect on the flavour or colour of the feed. For example, a vanilla extract may well encourage piglets to eat a ration.
3. Nutritional: when it supplies specific nutrient(s) required by the animal for optimal growth. Examples would be essential products for the animal such as vitamins, amino acids or trace minerals. In most cases, such products are simply concentrated forms of nutrients supplied in natural ingredients in the diet.
4. Zootechnical: when it improves the nutrient status of the animal, not by providing specific nutrients, but by enabling more efficient use of the nutrients present in the diet. An example would be an enzyme or a microorganism, both of which enhance the conditions of the intestinal tract, thus enabling more effective nutrient extraction from the diet. In this respect they are often referred to as pro-nutrients or probiotics, as they are products which improve the nutritional value of a diet without necessarily providing nutrients directly. Specialty feed ingredients can also be used to perform other zootechnical functions: environmental benefits, specific physiological functions...
More about feed additives uses: