Developing ingredient specification sheets and a list of approved suppliers is a good first step in creating a comprehensive feed quality assurance program.
By CHARLES STARK, LELAND MCKINNEY and ADAM FAHRENHOLZ*
*Dr. Charles Stark is the Jim & Carol Brown associate professor in feed technology at Kansas State University. Dr. Leland McKinney is with DFS Inc. in Johnston, Iowa. Dr. Adam Fahrenholz is assistant professor in the Prestage department of poultry science at North Carolina State University.
THE efficient production of safe meat, milk and eggs begins with the manufacture of high-quality, safe feed. The first step in this process is identifying ingredients and suppliers that can provide a consistent, quality product that meets the specifications developed by the company's nutritionist and purchasing agent.
The value assigned to an ingredient by a nutritionist may vary based on the matrix values in the least-cost formulation program and the company's business goals and objectives. However, purchasing safe and consistent products from approved suppliers must be the goal of everyone involved in manufacturing feed.
Ingredient specification sheets provide guidance to purchasing agents, suppliers, transporters and receiving personnel and have always been the cornerstone of producing high-quality finished feed, limiting product liability and lowering the overall cost.
The use of approved suppliers and ingredient specification sheets is becoming increasingly important as the Food & Drug Administration develops new regulations in accordance with the Food Safety Modernization Act that was signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011. These new regulations require companies to complete a hazard analysis of their manufacturing process, starting with the ingredients that are purchased and received.
The hazard analysis should be used as a risk-based approach to identify potential contaminants that could be present in the feed ingredient, evaluate the likelihood of the contaminants and assess the potential health risks associated with the contaminants (National Grain & Feed Assn., 2010).
These new regulations will also specify potential hazards that should be minimized through the use of preventive controls. The use of ingredient specification sheets and a supplier approval process is a preventive control that is recognized as a prerequisite program for food safety in animal feeds (British Standards Institute, 2011).
Ingredient specification sheets should include: a product description, expected nutrient content, analytical methods, physical characteristics and the basis for rejection.
Product descriptions listed on ingredient specification sheets can be developed from a variety of resources, but official definitions of ingredients approved for use in animal feeds and pet food are present in the Official Publication of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The use of the official AAFCO definitions limits disputes between suppliers and purchasers over what will be purchased and delivered.
Expected nutrient contents can be obtained from National Research Council publications, Feedstuffs Reference Issue & Buyers Guide tables or internal quality assurance results.
Analytical methods listed on ingredient specification sheets should be approved methods. Approved methods can be obtained from the Association of Official Analytical Chemists and the American Oil Chemist's Society. Suppliers should be aware of the analytical methods that will be used by the laboratories evaluating their product.
Specifications for physical characteristics, such as density, particle size, color and flowability, can be developed within the feed mill, or general information is available in the "Feed Ingredient II Guide" through the American Feed Industry Assn.'s (AFIA) website.
Each company will need to decide which parameters dictate that a product be rejected. Common reasons may include excessive levels of a specific mycotoxin, lack of free-flowing material or adulteration of the ingredient.
Companies should have a good business relationship with their ingredient suppliers. The National Grain & Feed Assn. developed an extensive checklist that can be used to help evaluate ingredient suppliers and quality.
Some of the items on the checklist include: supplier contact information, the FDA bioterrorism facility registration number, safety data sheets, approved labels, comparison of supplier specifications to historical nutrient data, product liability insurance, sample retention policies, quality assurance procedures, certification programs such as ISO, hazard analysis or AFIA Safe Feed/Safe Food and conformation to current good manufacturing practices for medicated feeds, bovine spongiform encephalopathy prevention regulations and bioterrorism recordkeeping requirements.
Each feed mill is unique; therefore, managers should develop their own checklist for evaluating their suppliers. Additionally, each feed mill should have a list of approved suppliers that identifies the products that can be purchased and received from each supplier. The list should have the name and address of the company, contact person and telephone number. The list should be updated as supplier information changes and reviewed annually by the manager or purchasing agent.
Communication among the purchasing agent, feed mill manager and quality assurance laboratory prior to the purchase of a new ingredient is essential to minimize the hidden costs that could be associated with an ingredient change.
New ingredient suppliers should be evaluated prior to the first shipment. This evaluation should include completion of the checklist, as well as evaluation of several samples of the product that the supplier intends to ship to the feed mill. These samples should also be analyzed for nutrient content and compared to a typical analysis product specification sheet provided by the supplier.
Finally, suppliers should be open to plant visits and regular discussions about the quality of both physical characteristics and nutrient contents as well as be responsive to the feed mill when quality expectations are not met (Stark and Fahrenholz, 2013).
The nutritionist, purchasing agent and feed mill manager must work as a team to develop ingredient specification sheets that facilitate the procurement of a safe and consistent source of ingredients that can be used to produce high-quality feed.
Developing ingredient specification sheets and a list of approved suppliers is a good first step in the development of a comprehensive quality assurance plan, which is a prerequisite for creating a site-specific feed safety plan.
British Standards Institute. 2011. Prerequisite programmes for food safety in the manufacture of food and feed for animals. PAS222:2011.
National Grain & Feed Assn. 2010. Feed quality assurance program. Washington, D.C.
Stark, C.R., and A.C. Fahrenholz. 2013. Quality assurance program in feed manufacturing. Feedstuffs Reference Issue & Buyers Guide 2014. p. 84-89.