Can Algae Keep Animal Feed Antibiotic-Free?

(DGIwire) – For whom are the majority of antibiotics sold? Not humans—but farm animals. As recently noted by STAT, livestock and poultry producers have come to rely on medicated feeds and routine administration of antibiotics to promote growth and productivity. Unfortunately, the widespread use of medication in animal feed can give rise to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that creates more problems for producers. And over time, antibiotics used in animal production have found their way into the food chain, to be consumed by humans. Although not a primary driver of drug-resistant bacteria, it is still a cause for concern. As STAT reports, drug-resistant infections could kill up to 10 million people a year worldwide by 2050.

Steps are being taken to minimize the risk that new drug-resistant bugs may continue to proliferate. The World Health Organization has taken aim at the routine use of antibiotics in animal feed in its latest recommendations, while some US-based fast-food chains and major chicken producers have phased out the use of medically important antibiotics in their production processes. Another potential initiative involves adding algae-based products to animal feed.

“Certain varieties of algal biomass—because of their relatively low cost and unique blend of nutrients—could be developed into a feed ingredient or additive that offers a healthy alternative  for poultry and livestock nutrition,” says Andrew Dahl, President and CEO of ZIVO Bioscience, Inc., a biotech/agtech R&D company engaged in the commercialization of nutritional and medicinal products derived from proprietary algal strains. “Consumers are likely to respond positively to the introduction of natural feed ingredients, such as algae, to support animal health over antibiotic use or medicated feeds.”

As a feed ingredient for dairy cows, ZIVO has conducted in vitro and in vivo studies to substantiate the usefulness of its processed algal biomass to fortify generic feed mixes with high-availability non-starch polysaccharides, vitamins, phytonutrients and quality protein, which in combination is intended to support improved milk productivity on a herd-wide basis, as well as a healthy immune system. The firm recently concluded several pilot tests in preparation for the final phase of a three-year-long study to validate the safety and efficacy of its algae-based dairy cow product.

Meanwhile, as a phytogenic poultry feed ingredient, ZIVO’s algal strain is positioned to enter the poultry nutrition market, where early indications suggest that small amounts of algal biomass may be beneficial to broiler health, which may in turn increase productivity and potentially decrease reliance on antibiotics as growth promoters. ZIVO has posted positive results from three studies of a poultry feed ingredient candidate.

“Ensuring animal health is a crucial consideration for producers and consumers alike, and the potential advantages of incorporating algae into animal feed are far-ranging and very much worth exploring,” Dahl adds.