Feed quality

Feed is an important basis for the production of our food of animal origin. In the pet sector, too, feeding that is appropriate for the animals is of great importance. Flawless feed is the prerequisite for healthy and productive animals.

The monitoring and analysis of feedstuffs on the Austrian market is one of our central tasks, which is carried out by our Institute for Animal Nutrition and Feed. Due to the diverse range of examinations, possible hazards for humans, animals and the environment can be detected and prevented at an early stage.

In the feed report (see downloads at the end of this page) you will find in compact form all relevant information on official control and possible risks in feed as well as various investigation figures on the subject.

Every person or company that markets feed in any way must register with the Federal Office for Food Safety (BAES). Here you will find further information on this subject as well as the current register of registered/approved feed businesses.

Protein feed

As in the entire European area, there is also an undersupply in the protein feed sector in Austria. Protein feeds such as soy, rapeseed or sunflower are indispensable for the production of animal food (eggs, meat and milk) and have to be partly imported from overseas.

The largest cultivation areas for soy are currently in the USA, Brazil and Argentina, but also in Canada and other South American countries (Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia).

Imports to Austria

Every year, about 500,000 tons of soy and soy meal are imported, mainly from South America (Argentina, Brazil) and North America (USA), primarily to meet demand in pig and poultry farming. In recent years, the supply situation of soybean in Austria has continuously improved. Whereas the production of soybeans in the year 2000 was still just under 33,000 tons, in 2020 already more than 202,000 tons will be produced in Austria. Nevertheless, Austria wants to become less dependent on imports as part of its "Protein Strategy 2020+". One goal is to further expand domestic soy production in order to reduce imports by half by 2030. Currently, about one fifth of all protein sources come from imports.

Cultivation of soybeans in Austria

The cultivation of genetically modified seeds is generally prohibited in Austria. In the USA, a major soybean supplier, the area under GM soybean took up 95% in 2021. The available area for GM-free soybeans thus fell to 5% (source: Transgen.de).

With the general increase in GM-free production in Austria, soybean cultivation has also increased sharply in recent years. According to Statistics Austria, the area under soybean cultivation will be about 75,700 ha in 2021, making Austria the fifth largest soybean producer in the EU and taking major steps towards independence from soybean imports.

As a protein source for animal feed, other legumes such as grain peas, field beans, lupins, red clover and alfalfa thrive in our climatic zones in addition to soybeans. In addition, by-products of the oil-processing industry, such as extraction meal and press cake from oilseed crops (soybean, rapeseed, sunflower) and the dried stillage (also known as DDGS) from alcohol extraction, form valuable protein feeds. The largest domestic source of protein, however, is grassland.

GMO-free soy production in Austria

Due to the Codex Guideline "GMO-free production", food products in Austria can be labeled "GMO-free produced" via private quality seal programs. Since 2010, all Austrian milk production has been converted to GMO-free production, as has Austrian laying hen husbandry since the beginning of 2012. The demand for GMO-free feed has also increased significantly in pig fattening and fattening poultry production.

In order to meet the requirements, only GMO-free feed (feed free of genetically modified organisms) may be fed. Limiting GMO-free feeds are mainly protein feeds and in particular soybeans, which are currently mainly sourced from Brazil, but also from domestic production. GMO-free feeds may only have a maximum GMO content of 0.9%. If the GMO content exceeds 0.9%, the feed is subject to GM declaration and may consequently only be used for conventional feeding.

GMOs in feed

Precise labeling guidelines are provided in the European Union for the marketing of feed containing GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Feed containing approved GMOs or produced from approved GMOs must be labeled. This does not apply to feed containing a maximum of 0.9% of genetically modified material of a crop species, provided that this presence is adventitious and technically unavoidable (Art. 12 of Regulation (EC) No. 1829/2003).

Genetically modified feed may also be placed on the market in the European Union without authorization, provided that it complies with the criteria of Regulation (EC) No. 619/2011. The prerequisite for this is a corresponding assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and a maximum GMO content of 0.1%.

For all other non-approved genetically modified organisms, no threshold exists. Even traces of such GMOs in feed or in products made from them are not tolerated. The reason for this regulation is to protect consumers from possible health risks.

For the production of feed from organic farming GMOs are generally prohibited, for adventitious or unavoidable admixtures of GMOs a content of maximum 0.9% is tolerated.

The control of feed in Austria for unauthorized GMOs mainly concerns the labeling of soy, corn and rapeseed. Based on a risk-based control plan, the number of samples for these GMO investigations is adjusted annually. In addition, inspections for genetically modified rice, linseed, potato, sugar beet and cotton are carried out as required.

Feed testing for GMOs between 2018 to 2020:

Year Number of investigations Complaints
2018 192 2
2019 143 2
2020 177 2


Further information on genetically modified organisms can be found here.

Insects as feed

Lack of protein supply

The feeding of "meat-and-bone meal" - correctly, processed animal proteins derived from mammals - to farm animals was banned by Regulation (EC) 999/2001 at the beginning of this millennium. (This ban does not apply to the feeding of pets.) Irrespective of the ethical discussion, this triggered a shortage in the protein supply of farm animals. Until now, this could only be compensated to a limited extent with vegetable protein sources. Although supplementation with synthetic amino acids has alleviated this situation, the annual increase in global meat consumption and thus the increased demand for feed protein have nevertheless led to talk of a protein gap - especially in the supply of pigs, poultry and in aquaculture.

Insects as possible protein sources

Insects represent one possibility for providing protein in a composition that is particularly beneficial for fish and poultry. The main components of the dry matter of insect larvae are fat and protein in a ratio of about 1:1. In terms of amino acids, a favorable ratio of lysine: methionine is evident, as well as a strikingly high content of the fatty acid lauric acid (C 12:0) in certain species. The first major initiatives and projects in this direction were launched in Europe around 2012, and the legislative discussion in Brussels started in 2013.

The European Food Safety Authority ( EFSA ) also took a position on the use of insects as feed in a 2015 report(EFSA Journal 2015; 13 (10): 4257). Since the beginning of the discussion, an increasing interest of the expert public, among others also in Austria, could be recorded. Therefore, the European Commission also felt compelled to adapt the existing legal framework of the ABP (animal by-products) Regulation with Regulation ( EU) 2017/893 to the effect that insects in the form of processed animal protein can also be used in livestock feeding. The range of use of insects has been permitted for all livestock except ruminants since 2021, although the selection of insects has been limited.

The following insects can serve as feedstock for processed animal proteins:

  • Soldier fly (Hermetia illucens)
  • House fly (Musca domestica)
  • Flour beetle (Tenebrio molitor)
  • Grain mould beetle (Alphitobius diaperinus)
  • Cricket (Acheta domesticus)
  • Short-winged cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus)
  • Steppe cricket (Gryllus assimilis)

Implementation & Problems

A major problem in the practical implementation of insect production is that insects are considered livestock under feed law and therefore may only be fed in a manner analogous to livestock. This means that substrates that could potentially be used with insects, such as compost, food waste, animal excreta (feces) or other organic residues, may not be used because they are either expressly prohibited by feed law or do not meet other requirements for livestock feed. This circumstance leads to relatively high costs compared to established vegetable protein sources.



Dipl. Ing. Irmengard Strnad

Last updated: 10.10.2023

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