ABC Four Corners interview - general discussion topics

31 October 2016

Skretting was interviewed in October by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation media program Four Corners for a report on the Tasmanian Salmon Industry. We have provided additional information on key feed topics discussed during the interview to provide some further clarification.

The Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association website also has some further information available (click here to view).

Why aren’t ingredients labelled on our feed bags?

The ingredients used in our feed are detailed on our website (click here to view), and further detail on average inclusion level is available in our Sustainability Report (click here to view). We comply with all relevant product labelling standards in Australia and New Zealand, and according to these labelling standards are not required to include feed ingredients on the bag label.

What is restricted animal material and why is it labelled on your feed bags?

All raw materials used by Skretting are approved for use in fish feeds, including some that are derived from animal material. Such ingredients are regulated in relation to the target animal, and particularly cannot be fed to ruminants (e.g. cattle, sheep, deer). Labelling of restricted animal material complies with legislation and product labelling standards intended to ensure that ruminants are not fed feed containing animal-derived ingredients.

What is poultry meal?

We are selective with the cuts of poultry meat that are generally used for human consumption, leaving behind a large resource of valuable nutrients. The poultry products not used for human consumption can be turned into valuable feed ingredients for fish and other animal feeds, defined as poultry meal and feather meal. Feathers are heat and pressure treated in order to make the protein more available to animals, while poultry products are simply cooked as a pre-treatment. A further drying process may be used to form a meal. Use of these ingredients in fish feed is a responsible use of valuable nutrients that might otherwise go to waste.

What is meat meal?

Meat meal is derived from an equivalent process as poultry meal, but from cattle and sheep processing.

What are vitamins and minerals?

Vitamins are a group of nutrients that animals cannot make themselves and must get from their food. They are responsible for a variety of processes within the body and are essential for optimal health, welfare, growth and disease resistance.

Minerals are essential chemical elements. Common mineral elements include calcium and phosphorous, that together make up a large proportion of bone mass. Another important role of minerals is electrolyte balance.

We supplement a range of vitamins and minerals to fish feed to ensure optimal wellbeing of the fish that we supply feed for.

What is astaxanthin and why is it used in salmon feed?

The characteristic red/pink colour of wild and farmed salmon alike is due to carotenoid pigments, predominantly astaxanthin . Astaxanthin is produced by algae, yeast or bacteria and is passed on in the wild food chain to crustaceans and then onto salmon that consume crustaceans. Farmed salmon feed typically contains a synthesised version of astaxanthin, which is identical in structure and function to that found in wild salmon.

Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant and supports the salmon immune system. Without astaxanthin in the feed, salmon are less resistant to disease and growth is impaired.

Is astaxanthin a chemical?

The term ‘chemical’ can be applied to anything with a known composition, including water. The term ‘chemical’ is commonly misused to make something appear ‘unnatural’ because of negative connotations related to chemical additives that are unrelated to natural substances and may be considered harmful. All substances of known composition are chemicals, including water, proteins, fatty acids, minerals and carbohydrates that make up the majority of living organisms.

Astaxanthin is a chemical with a known composition, like water, and can be synthesised.  Synthesised astaxanthin has the same chemical composition as the astaxanthin found in wild salmon flesh, is approved for use as a feed additive, and has been declared safe for the human consumer by the exacting standards of the European Panel on Additives and Products or Substances used in Animal Feed (FEEDAP).  

Why use synthesised astaxanthin?

There is no good reason to use any other form. Synthesised astaxanthin is an approved feed ingredient which is safe for the fish and the end consumer. It is identical in structure and function to naturally occurring astaxanthin and can be produced efficiently in large quantities.  In order to sustainably grow an industry it is important to be increasingly independent of limited resources. The ability to synthesise an identical version of this feed component increases the ability of the industry to grow without impacting other industries or depleting naturally occurring resources.

Is astaxanthin harmful to humans?

No. In fact, there is a growing body of medical research that highlights Astaxanthin as a valuable antioxidant for human health, and it is now included directly in nutritional health products.

What colour would a salmon fillet be if astaxanthin is not included in the feed?

Given its health benefits in salmon feed, it is poor practice to make feeds for this species without astaxanthin, and it is not natural for salmon to be depleted of this nutrient. Salmon are not naturally white fleshed and thus farmed salmon are not naturally white fleshed. Salmon have experimentally been depleted of astaxanthin and the fillet appears similar to white-fleshed fish.

Are fish what they eat?

Fish digest proteins to their amino acid ‘building blocks’, which are common to all proteins. These are then reconfigured to form fish protein. Consuming fish means that you are consuming fish protein.