Animal Feed

Our aim is to protect consumer and animal health, and to ensure those buying feed have information to allow them to make informed choices.

Animal feed

The regulatory regime for animal feed is harmonised throughout the EU. Most businesses that use, manufacture or sell animal feed must be registered or approved, and comply with specified standards in respect of their facilities, storage, personnel and record-keeping. This includes farmers feeding animals producing food for human consumption and arable farms growing crops for feed use.

In addition, a number of codes of practice and quality assurance schemes apply to the production and delivery of feed to farms and the sourcing, storage and handling of feed materials and compound feeds. The main codes are those drawn up by the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) and the Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA). These and other codes –developed by the feed industry, farmers – unions, and trade bodies such as egg producers and the Soil Association – are voluntary, but help ensure that measures are in place to address identifiable hazards and trace feed materials. The ultimate aim of both legislation and self-regulation is to ensure that animal feed is safe, wholesome, and does not present any danger to animal or human health and the environment.

What animals eat

Whilst Scottish consumers will eat meat, fish, dairy and egg products from animals reared around the world, Scotland itself is a relatively big animal product producer. Salmon produced in Scotland accounts for 40% by value of Scottish food exports and is the UKs biggest single food export, and on land, Scotland accounts for approximately 30% of the UK beef herd of breeding cattle and 20% of the UK breeding sheep flock for example.

The intensification of the livestock industry in the second half of the 20th century means that a much wider variety of ingredients is used in feed than previously. This includes ingredients that might not be thought part of an animal's natural diet, such as fishmeal.

Concerns about the recycling of animal material into feed (a practice common in developed countries for many decades) have led to a number of prohibitions on what may be used in feed. The use of mammalian meat and bone meal (MBM) was banned because it was thought to have caused or spread BSE; the ban was subsequently extended to almost all forms of processed animal protein (PAP).

Farmers' choices of what to feed their livestock will be governed by many different factors - the age and species of the animals concerned, their intended products (meat, milk or eggs), the price and availability of feed materials, their nutritive value, and even the time of year and the geographical location (soil type and climate) of the farm.

Categories of feedingstuffs

Animal feed can be divided into four groups - forages (e.g. grasses); cereals and other home-grown crops; compound feedingstuffs; and products and by-products of the human food and brewing industries.


Forage crops generally have a high fibre content, and are usually used on the farms where they are grown. The exceptions are cereal straw and grass dried after cutting, which are traded and may be transported many miles. Cut grass can also be turned into silage by storing it in plastic sheeting, which excludes air and promotes fermentation of the sugars under anaerobic conditions. Silage can also be made from cereal crops such as maize and wheat, which are harvested whole and then chopped into fragments.

Cereals and other home-grown crops

These are feeds with a high energy and/or protein content. They may be fed to livestock on the farm where they are grown or bought in from outside, and may be fed either singly or as compound feeds (manufactured, often pelleted, mixtures of single feed materials, minerals and vitamins). Over 50% of cereals produced on Scottish farms is used for animal feed.

For ruminants, feeds of this type are necessary to supplement fresh or conserved feeds that do not provide sufficient nutrients for the animals. Non-ruminants (such as pigs and poultry) are unable to digest forages, and so their diets consist almost entirely of these feeds, together with the products and by-products described below.

Products and by-products of the food and brewing industries

By-products of the food and brewing industries (sometimes described as 'co-products') which remain after the production of food for human consumption are widely used as feeds for livestock. These include the residues of vegetable processing, spent grains from brewing and malting, and by-products of the baking, bread-making, and confectionery industries. In Scotland, considerable volumes of animal feed material result from whisky distillation. Draff, or spent grains which are no longer useful in the production of alcohol is nevertheless a rich source of protein, carbohydrates and fibre and is useful as cattle feed.

Food products which were intended for human consumption but which are rejected at the factory as sub-standard, or are broken or misshaped, or have passed their 'best before' dates, or are surplus to market requirements, can also be fed to animals.

The quality of these products is high because their ingredients were selected for use in the human food chain, but their use on farms will be determined by their costs relative to those of other feeds. However, if these products were not recycled into feed - which is not in itself a new practice - they would have to be disposed of in some other way, such as landfill or composting.

Typical livestock diets

The diets of ruminants differ from those of pigs and poultry. In addition to the materials listed, livestock diets may be supplemented by compound (mixed or manufactured) feeds. Vitamins and minerals are usually also provided, either incorporated into the compound feed or fed separately (such as in capsule form).


Dairy cows and beef cattle are usually fed grass during the summer months and conserved forage (silage, or hay) in the winter. These forages may be supplemented with cereals and other by-products to increase milk yield or liveweight gain. The diets of both may also include, as available, forage crops such as kale and rapeseed, root crops (turnips and fodder beet), and the pulp remaining from the processing of sugar beet or citrus fruit.

Sheep and goats

Sheep and goats spend less time indoors than cattle. Their diet is similar to that of cattle, although barley and other cereals are usually fed only to pregnant and lactating ewes and to young lambs. During winter months they may also be fed on root crops such as swedes, which may also be grazed in the fields in which they are grown.


Pigs are omnivores, and in the past their diets included meat and meat products. However, this – and the feeding of catering waste as swill – is now prohibited because of the potential for spreading disease (particularly foot-and-mouth). Pig diets typically include cereal grains, oilseed meals, and other by-products of the human food industry. Pigs reared outdoors may also be fed root crops such as swedes. There is more liquid feeding of pigs than other species of farmed livestock.


Poultry – chickens, turkeys, quails, ducks and geese – are typically fed on cereal grains, especially those reared in poultry houses. Free range poultry, geese and ducks in particular, will also graze on grass.


Fish reared in water cages receive a pelleted feed, which is likely to include fishmeal and other fish derivatives. However, given that many fish (and indeed poultry) will naturally consume insects, this is also being considered as a potential commercial option in future. The European Food Safety Authority has published a risk profile related to production and consumption of insects as food and feed,


An extensive raft of legislation governs animal feedingstuffs and this has evolved over time to match changing farming practices over the years.

Food law includes feed produced for, or fed to, both food-producing and non-food-producing animals (i.e. farmed livestock and other animals such as pets, game, and zoo, circus and laboratory animals). It therefore applies to all stages of the production, processing and distribution of feed, subject to certain exemptions for primary production for private domestic use.

Feed law in the UK, as elsewhere across the EU, is harmonised. EC Regulation 178/2002 sets out general principles for both feed and food law and aims to protect human health and consumer interests in relation to food while at the same time improving the functioning of the EU market for food and feed.

Food Standards Agency has produced guidance which is relevant in Scotland explaining the requirements of EC Regulation 178/2002 as it relates to feed.

Details on the EU framework legislation that applies to feed can be found on the European Commission’s website.

Some key elements of EU and domestic Scottish feed law are described in more detail below.

Feed Hygiene Regulations

EC Regulation 183/2005 on feed hygiene requires most feed businesses involved in making, marketing or using feed to be registered or approved. Feed businesses in this context include manufacturers selling by-products of food production into the feed chain, livestock farmers and arable farms growing crops for feed use. The regulation applies at all points in the supply and use of feed, and requires feed businesses to comply with standards in respect of facilities, storage, personnel and record-keeping.

The regulation is enforced in Scotland by The Feed (Hygiene and Enforcement) Scotland Regulations 2005.

This provides for the enforcement in Scotland of feed related articles of European Regulation 178/2002 on the general principles of food and feed law and on the European Regulation 183/2005 on the requirements for feed hygiene. Separate but parallel legislation applies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Download the Q&A document on the general requirements associated with EC regulation 183/2005.

Placing animal feed on the market

Food Standards Agency has also produced guidance which is relevant in Scotland explaining how feed business operators should comply with provisions of EU Regulation 767/2009.

Other relevant feed guidance produced by Food Standards Agency prior to the establishment of FSS and applicable across the UK can be found on the FSA website.

The Scottish Food and Feed Law document describes the range of EU and domestic legislation applicable to this sector.

Authorised feed additives

EU Regulation 1831/2003 controls the use of additives in animal nutrition within the European Union. Essentially, new feed additives can only be granted an authorisation following a scientific evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Additives may be put on the market and used only for the specific purposes provided for by the authorisation.

Authorised feed additives are listed in the European Union’s Register of Feed Additives by the European Commission. You can use the Register to check whether or not an additive has been authorised in the EU. You can find out details of a product’s authorisation (including when the authorisation expires) via hyperlinks within the Register. The Register of Feed Additives is a source of information about the status of feed additives, giving information, such as the animals for which the additive has been authorised and the relevant conditions for use. The Register can be accessed on the EU website

Regulation 1831/2003 sets out conditions of use for additives and provisions on the labelling of feed additives or premixtures of additives. The EFSA Register has a link to the legislation that granted the authorisations for an additive. When you click on this link, you can see the conditions of use for an additive, e.g. type of additive, animal species, doses and how and where it can be used. In some cases, the link will not provide the conditions of use.

Undesirable substances in animal feed

Undesirable substances, more commonly known as contaminants, are defined in legislation as:

'any substance or product, with the exception of pathogenic agents, which is present in and/or on the product intended for animal feed and which presents a potential danger to animal or human health or to the environment or could adversely affect livestock production'.

Examples include arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, aflatoxin B1 and dioxins.

Generally, these undesirable substances are either naturally-occurring environmental contaminants that are present at low levels in feed and food products, particularly vegetable crops drawing nutrients directly from the soil, or are process contaminants that may be introduced into the feeding stuff either during or as a consequence of its treatment, manufacture and storage.

The presence of undesirable substances in feed is controlled by European Parliament and Council Directive 2002/32/EC of 7 May 2002 (as amended), which sets maximum permitted levels (MPLs) for these substances.

Feed that contains a contaminant at a level above the relevant MPL is deemed to be unsafe and must be withdrawn and disposed of outside the feed and food chains, for example by sending it for alternative uses, for destruction, or returning it to the country of dispatch. The 'blending down' of consignments of feed materials with levels of contamination above the MPL – mixing them with uncontaminated consignments in order to reduce the overall level of contamination to below the upper limit – is prohibited.


Mycotoxins are toxic compounds produced by different types of fungus which can become an issue particularly when temperature and moisture conditions are favourable. They can enter the food chain through contaminated food and feed crops and consequently may cause adverse health effects including cancer, gastrointestinal and kidney disorders as well as reducing resistance to infectious disease.

Which mycotoxins are of concern in Scottish agriculture and which mycotoxins may be expected to emerge?

In Scotland, as well as some wheat production, the main cereals grown are barley (mainly for malting) and oats (for food & feed). Other crops such as oilseed rape where mycotoxin risk is more likely related to the presence of Alternaria fungi are commercially important for both food and feed in Scotland but tend to be regarded as of a lower concern. Forage crops such as silage, hay and straw are also susceptible to mycotoxin risk.

The main mycotoxin producing fungi and toxins of concern in the field in Scotland (and the rest of the UK) are Fusarium spp which cause Fusarium head blight, producing primarily DON (deoxynivalenol) & ZON (zearalenone). In stored grain the fungi Penicillium spp and Aspergillus spp produce primarily aflatoxins & ochratoxins.

Although there are no legislative levels set for the mycotoxins T-2 and HT-2, Scottish oats tend to have higher levels than in the rest of the UK.

Mycotoxin producing fungal infection is highly heterogeneous, varying widely between & within fields, and also over time with spikes of infection occurring during certain periods which makes the assessment of food safety risk problematic.

Different species or strains may also be introduced through imported grain for food/feed and as seed. Annual seed surveys undertaken by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) have recorded a higher incidence of Fusarium graminearum and F. lansethiae in cereals in the last 5 years. The increase in F. graminearum is most likely linked to an increase in the area of maize being grown in the UK. Maize seed is also imported (mostly from Europe) into Scotland and the rest of the UK (mainly for feed) and some analyses have shown raised levels of T2 and DON in imported grain.

Mycotoxins are robust molecules and are generally resistant to denaturing by heat & different pH levels; they can pass into fermented products such as beer but not into distilled products such as whisky.

Industry requirements vary, with distillers preferring low protein barley varieties and feed manufacturers higher protein varieties. A particular concern for malting brewers/distillers is fungal contamination of grain which alters the quality and flavour characteristics of the final product.

Since fungi tend to infect the outer layers of the grain mycotoxin production can also affect feed manufacturers in Scotland. Around 90% of spent distillers' grain goes for animal feed, which in its ‘raw’ condition can be susceptible to mycotoxin contamination accumulated by fungal activity during storage.

Climate change has led to more sudden, less predictable weather events and altered temperatures and rainfall levels. There is potential for current fungal species to become more prevalent, for other species to be introduced or strains evolve; and for the rapid proliferation of infection.

Dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs

Maximum permitted levels (MPLs) for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs are set out in EC Directive 2002/32 on undesirable substances. Commission Regulation 225/2012 introduces additional requirements to those set out in the EC Feed Hygiene Regulation (183/2005) to help avoid contamination of feed oils and fats by dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs.

One of these requirements is for feed business operators to carry out analyses of certain types of oils and fats, and compound feeds containing such oils and fats, for the presence of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs. These requirements are set out in detail in the Dioxin Monitoring section of the Annex to Regulation 225/2012.

Food Standards Agency has also produced monitoring guidance and reporting guidance for levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs which is relevant in Scotland for food businesses and enforcement officers.

Genetically modified feed

Before a genetically modified organism (GMO) can be marketed or grown in the EU, it must be authorised under Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003. This requirement applies both to living GMOs, such as maize and soya, and to feed and food ingredients derived from the processing of GM crops. The authorisation procedure includes an assessment by the Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The Panel assesses the safety of the GMO and the food or feed derived from it. The Panel’s scientific advice is then taken into account by the Commission and member states when deciding whether to authorise the GMO for use in the EU.

Food from animals fed on authorised GM crops is considered to be as safe as food from animals fed on non-GM crops.

There have been some concerns that functional transgenes from GM-derived feed materials might be incorporated into livestock products for human consumption (milk, meat and eggs). It is possible that DNA fragments derived from GM plant materials may occasionally be detected in animal tissues, in the same way that DNA fragments derived from non-GM plant materials can be detected in these same tissues.

EFSA also noted that 'no technique is currently available to enable a valid and reliable tracing of animal products (meat, milk, eggs) when the producer animals have been fed a diet incorporating GM plants'.

Temporary and full authorisations granted under the Regulation (EC) No. 1829/2003 mean that, as at March 2013, there were 48 GMOs with a possible use in feed in the EU – 27 varieties of maize, 8 varieties of cotton, 7 varieties of soya bean, 3 varieties of oilseed rape, a sugar beet, and two micro-organisms. Apart from the micro-organisms, these varieties have been produced to exhibit resistance to certain herbicides or insect pests or in some cases both. Further details of these varieties are given in the register on the Commission’s website

All of these GM varieties have been authorised for import and processing. A larger number of GM plant lines, including varieties of cotton, maize, oilseed rape, rice and soya bean which have not been authorised for use in the EU, have been approved for growing elsewhere in the world, particularly major commodity-exporting countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, India and the USA.

In general, the EU's authorisation procedures for new GM varieties tend to be slower than those of other countries, a time-lag known as 'asynchronous authorisation'. To deal with the possible presence of unauthorised varieties in imports of commodity crops for feed use, the EU adopted a measure (Regulation (EC) No 619/2011) setting a tolerance level of 0.1% for certain varieties for which a valid application for an EU authorisation has been made.

Feed materials and compound feeds which contain GM or GM-derived material are required to be labelled to state as much. Labelling is not required for feed consignments containing adventitious or technically unavoidable traces of GM material, up to a threshold of 0.9% for GM varieties approved in the EU. According to the European Feed Manufacturers' Association (FEFAC), at least 85% (around 107 million tonnes) of the EU's compound feed production is now labelled to indicate that it contains GM or GM-derived material. GM food and feed, and traceability and labelling of GMOs: Guidance notes on the regulations

The spread of biotechnology through commodity-exporting countries means that supplies of feed materials to the EU will contain a proportion of GM-derived products. It is not possible to quantify this as there is no legal requirement for importers to declare the quantities, but these imports are considered by the EU feed industry as unavoidable because the EU is not self-sufficient in protein-rich feed.

Pet food

Whilst feed legislation applies principally to feed for farmed livestock, it also covers feed for what are called 'non-food producing animals'. This typically means fur-bearing animals (the rearing of which in the UK has been prohibited for some years), animals kept in zoos, circuses and laboratories, creatures living freely in the wild, and pets. It does not include horses and rabbits, which since 1 September 2010 have been classified as food-producing animals.

The labelling requirements for pet food are less onerous than those for feed for farmed livestock. For livestock, the ingredients must be declared individually in descending order by weight, but pet food manufacturers have the option to declare them by category -- e.g. 'meat and animal derivatives', 'oils and fats', 'cereals', 'vegetable protein extracts'. Declaration by categories allows for fluctuations in the supply of the raw materials used and provides flexibility for labelling ingredients without incurring unreasonable cost.

Feed labelling legislation also permits manufacturers to draw particular attention to the presence of absence of a particular ingredient and to provide information over and above the statutory minimum with which purchasers must be provided (analytical declarations for protein, fibre, etc.; the name and address of the manufacturer). This additional information is subject to certain safeguards, e.g. that it should not mislead purchasers, not make medicinal claims, and must concern objective and quantifiable factors which can be substantiated. Thus a label of a pet food product which states that it contains "20% beef" must actually contain that ingredient in the stated proportion.

The material of animal origin used by the pet food industry comprises those parts of animals which are either deemed surplus to human consumption or are not normally consumed by people in the UK, and derived from animals inspected and passed as fit for human consumption prior to slaughter. Animal material of this nature, which is not intended for human consumption, is classified as 'animal by-products' under the EC Regulation on Animal By-Products for which Defra is responsible, and assigned the lowest risk rating. This rating requires that the material be free of any transmissible disease, which therefore excludes material from dying, diseased or disabled animals.

Pet food is subject to similar controls with respect to authorised additives and levels of undesirable substances as feed for farmed livestock. For pets, the main part of the risk assessment when setting the maximum permitted levels for undesirable substances will generally be the extent to which the animal can tolerate them.

Many of the particular nutritional purposes for which feeds may be marketed - that is, the dietary management of certain conditions where the animal's metabolism is temporarily or permanently impaired -- concern pet food. Examples of these purposes include the support of renal function in renal insufficiency, the reduction of acute intestinal absorptive disorders, the regulation of glucose supply and support of skin function in dermatosis and excessive hair loss.

Enforcement of the legislation relating to pet food is the responsibility of local authorities.

Sampling and Analysis of Feed

Regulation 152/2009 laying down methods of sampling and analysis for the official control of feed replaced and consolidated several Directives on sampling and analysis, some of which dated back for over thirty years and had been amended on numerous occasions. The Annexes to the Regulation set out the detailed procedures which must be followed when analysing animal feed for a range of specified analytes or substances.

This Regulation is enforced in Scotland by The Feed (Sampling and Analysis and Specified Undesirable Substances) (Scotland) Regulations 2010.

FSA sampling guidance applies to Scotland

Feed Law Code of Practice

Local authorities are responsible for carry out official controls (this includes sampling and inspections) and enforcement of feed law.

The Feed Law Code of Practice provides direction by FSS to Local Authorities responsible for enforcement in this sector.

In this section

Registration and Approval

Under EU regulation, there is a system for the approval and registration of feed business establishments that manufacture, market, distribute or use animal feeds.

More on this topic

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Food & Feed

The safety of food in Scotland is governed by laws and guidance, covering everything from production to processing, distribution, retail, packaging and labelling.

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Farming & Primary Production

Food Standards Scotland works with the farming industry and primary producers to ensure food is safe and authentic from the beginning of the food chain.

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Safety & Regulation

Our Food Safety and regulation pages cover all of our advice and guidance for business, industry and Local Authority enforcement officers.

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