Eco-Feeds in Japan

Eco-Feeds in Japan

Published: 2021.07.01
Accepted: 2021.06.28
University of Miyazaki, Miyazaki, Japan


Technologies related to eco-feeds have been largely developed in Japan in this century. Eco-feeds  have been defined as the use of co-products for animal feeding. Co-products include by-products generated from food industries, surplus and wastes generated in the processes of distribution, retailing and consumption of food. Dehydration, silage and liquid feeding are the major technologies to prepare eco-feed. Farmers can feed dehydrated eco-feed to animals without modifying the feeding system if the feed composition is appropriate. It can be used as ingredients of commercial concentrate feeds. Silage is used mainly for ruminant feeding. Silage prepared from by-products, such as brewers grains, tea grounds, soybean curd residues, are commercially utilized. Fermented TMR (Total mixed ration) prepared from by-products, roughage, and other ingredients is widely utilized in Japan. Liquid feeding is mainly for pigs. There are various liquid by-products generated from food industries, such as distiller’s residues, cheese whey and rice washing water. These by-products can be used as ingredients of liquid feeding. One of the major advantages of liquid feeding is a utilization of a wide range of co-products which contains high moisture. Applications of organic acid and lactic fermentation are the major technologies for preservation. Meat containing eco-feed can be fed to pigs and poulty after heat treatment under Japanese regulation. However, heating condition will become stricter due to the amendment of the regulation, which is responding to the current outbreaks of Classical swine fever and increasing risk of African swine fever. Current situation and technological development relating to eco-feeds in Japan is introduced in this paper.

Keywords: Eco-feed, Animal feeds, By-products, Food wastes


Technologies related to eco-feed have been largely developed in Japan in this century. Eco-feeds have been defined as the use of co-products for animal feeding. Co-products include by-products generated from food industries, surplus and wastes generated in the processes of distribution, retailing and consumption of food. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (3Rs) are major technologies for reducing food loss. Eco-feed is one of the activities of the Recycle technologies. Japan's feed self-sufficiency rate is 25% and only 12% for concentrated feeds in 2018 (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 2020a), and most of feed grains rely on imports. On the other hand, the amount of manure generated by livestock is enormous and has already been used for compost and energy. The use of food wastes as feed (eco-feed) is effective in reducing food loss and at the same time improving the feed self-sufficiency rate. It is important to use food wastes as animal feeds as the first step. And then manure is converted into fertilizer or energy. We call it cascade utilization. This paper introduces our activites related to eco-feeds , the mechanisms that support them, and a discussion of current issues.

Technological development of eco-feed

Eco-feed and heating standards

Food wastes have long been used as the main feed to support small-scale backyard pig and poultry farming. In order to respond to the rapid growth in demand for animal products during high economic growth period from the 1950s, highly-improved exotic breeds have been introduced, and a large amount of feed grains have been imported. Then, food wastes were no longer the major feed resources in animal farming. However, since 2001, when Law for Promotion of Recycling and Related Activities for the Treatment of Cyclical Food Resources (Food Waste Recycling Law) was enforced, the use of food wastes as animal feeds was focused again. Then, along with the technological development based on current animal science, the amount of eco-feed has steadily increased. The name, eco-feeds, was decided for its promotion by a project supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,

With the outbreak of BSE in 2001, the Feed Safety Law was amended in Japan in order to severely limit the use of animal protein in ruminant feeds. However, it was decided that food wastes could be used as feeds for pigs and chickens, because it is originally edible, and contributes particularly to the promotion of public interests such as improving the food self-sufficiency rate and realizing a recycling-oriented society through recycle of food wastes. Those that may be contaminated with raw meat, have to be used after heat treatment at 70 ° C for 30 minutes or longer or 80 ° C for 3 minutes or longer from the viewpoint of preventing classical swine fever (CSF).

According to the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), meat should be heated to 70 ℃ or higher in order to prevent CSF as in Japanese standards. On the other hand, swill should be heated to 90 ℃ for 60 minutes or at 120 ℃ for 10 minutes at 3 atm (OIE, 2019). Regarding this difference, meat and swill have different water and fat compositions, and various substances present in swill may potentially protect the virus, so it is necessary to tighten the heating requirements for inactivation. On March 9, 2020, the Standards of Rearing Hygiene Management was revised in order to respond to the occurrence of CSF in Japan and the increasing risk of ASF, in which heating standards for eco-feeds was amended. Food wastes generated from facilities handling meat has to be treated by the following process, when they are used as eco-feed: heat treatment at 90 ℃ or higher with stirring for 60 minutes or longer,  or a method that has an equivalent or higher effect as this, and measures to prevent cross-contamination of the heat-treated feeds with raw materials before heating. As for the dehydration method, which is widely used in Japan as a method for preparing eco-feed, OIE code does not cover, so it will be clarified in future guidelines.

Of the 17.67 million tons of food wastes generated annually in 2017, 9.13 million tons are used as feeds (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 2020b). Since the enforcement of the Food Waste Recycling Law, the production of eco-feed has steadily increased, and seemed to reach the achievement target. However, the speed slowed down in recent years and has been declining since 2017 (Figure. 1). Japan's infrastructure for feed production is extremely fragile. Self-sufficiency rate of concentrate feeds is low, and most feed grains depend on imports from overseas. Its main constituent, corn, is extremely dependent on the United States. The price of corn soared from around 2008 due to the expansion of demand for corn for bioethanol production and the unseasonable weather in the main production areas. In 2012, there was a significant decrease in exports due to drought in the main production areas of the United States. At that time, imports from Brazil and Argentina were able to meet the demand in Japan, but corn prices continued to rise. Since 2013, a good harvest has continued in the United States, and supply and prices have been stable. The production of eco-feed increased significantly during the period when the international price of corn was high, and in recent years it has turned downward as the soaring price subsided. The amount of eco-feeds used in the Chubu region has been declining since 2018 due to CSF occurred mainly in the region. The self-sufficiency rate of concentrated feed, which was 14% from 2014 to 2016, has already dropped to 12% in 2018 (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 2020a). Tighter heating standards may increase eco-feed production costs and some companies producing eco-feed may withdraw. Therefore, there may be a further decrease in the production of eco-feeds, and a further decrease in the self-sufficiency rate of concentrated feeds.

Preparation and feeding technologies of eco-feeds

Dehydration, silage, and liquid feeding are practiced as eco-feed preparation and feeding technologies are developed (Kawashima and Ishibashi, 2015a). The technology to be adopted is selected according to the type and amount of food wastes used as a raw material, its composition, the location where food wastes are generated and the location where eco-feeds is prepared, the distance between the livestock farmer used, the target livestock, and the feeding method.

The most convenient way to improve the storage stability of eco-feed and facilitate transportation is to dry it. Eco-feed can be sterilized by heating during the process of dehydaration. Animal farmers can feed it through existing feeding system. Dried materials such as bread crumbs, soybean curd residue, and brewers grains are available. On the other hand, there are many cases to produce dehydrated eco-feed from various kinds of food wastes and these are registered as a raw material for formula feeds after deliberation by the Agricultural Materials Council (Food and Agricultural Materials Inspection Center, 2020). It is a dried product of various food wastes, each of which has different raw materials. The equipment used is also different. As the raw materials are different, chemical compsitions ​​vary, and those with a high lipid content have high nutritional value, and some have a TDN content of over 100%. It is mainly prepared from municipal solid wastes from business activities as a raw material, and can be said to be a model for the formation of a recycling-oriented society.

Many of the by-products have a high water content, and silage is often prepared as a low-cost storage method (Nonaka and Ishibashi, 2015). Feeding systems for pigs and chickens cannot deliver silage. Silage prepared from eco-feed is mainly for cattle. When targeting ruminants, it is necessary to use resources that do not contain animal protein under the Feed Safety Law. Some are available year-round, such as brewers grains, tea grounds, and soy sauce cake, while others are seasonal resources, such as winery wastes, juice residues, and potato pulp. The silage-prepared eco-feed is often used as a raw material for total mixed ration (TMR). TMR is a mixture of roughage, silage-prepared by-products, grains and vitamins / minerals to meet the requirements of cattle. TMR centers that supply TMR have been established all over the country.

Liquid feeding is a feeding system to deliver liquid mixture of feed ingredients with water to pig barn through pipeline. One of the major advantages of liquid feeding is a utilization of wide range of co-products which contains high moisture. There are various types of by-products used, such as shochu distiler’s residue, whey, processed waste of potato and sweet patato, rice washing water, milk, juice, cooked rice, and bread crumbs (Kawashima and Ishibashi, 2015b). As mentioned above, heat treatment is indispensable for the materials containing meat. Fermented liquid feeding is a technique in which lactic acid bacteria are added after heat treatment and lactic fermentation is occurred. The pH is lowered and storage stability can be improved by lactic fermentation. When cooked rice is used as a source of carbohydrate, viscosity increases when heated. By adding α-amylase before heating, this problem can be overcome and a liquid feed with high dry matter content which can be prepared.

Japan Food Ecology Center (JFEC) in Kanagawa Prefecture, collects 49 tons of food wastes per day from department stores, supermarkets, dairy manufacturers, food factories, etc., and prepares fermented liquid feeds. It is transported to pig farmers who have liquid feeding system inside and outside the prefecture by tank truck. A recycling loop, which will be described later, is formed between food companies and pig farmers. In recognition of this effort, JFEC received the highest award at the 2nd "Japan SDGs Awards".

As mentioned above, one of the raw materials used for liquid feeding is rice washing water. It is generated from a machinery in the manufacturing process of rinse free rice, and is a condensed rice water. If it is a dry by-product, it can be used relatively easily as a raw material for feeds, but if it is in a liquid form, the available sites are limited. When selling the machinery to rice mills, the company introduces pig farmers who adopt liquid feeding, which accepts rice washing water as feeds. A mechanism to provide by-products as a package that can be used without waste, is built up. Although it is not directly related to the recycling business plan described later, it can be said to be a new model of recycling loop that reduces food loss.


Many food wastes, which are the raw materialS for eco-feed, are required to be handled according to the Waste Management and Public Cleansing Law (Waste Management Law). By-products from food indusries are categolized as industrial wastes under the Waste Management Law. On the other hand, unsold foods and expired foods discharged from retail stores, and cooking residues discharged from restaurants, hotels, schools, hospitals, etc. are categorized as municipal solid waste from business activities.

The Food Waste Recycling Law stipulates a certification system for recycling business plan (food recycling loops). Under this system, a plan related to the use of agricultural, livestock and marine products produced by using feeds and fertilizers originated from the recycling of food wastes is formulated by the collaboration among food business entities, feeds or fertilizer manufacturers and farmers. The government approves the plan based on applications from the three parties. It is necessary to obtain a permission for the collection and transportation of municipal solid wastes from each municipality. But if this certification is obtained, it will be possible to obtain permission collectively across municipalities. So, the procedure can be simplified. In addition, this will enable comapnies and livestock farmers who prepare eco-feeds to collect food wastes in a stable and safe manner, which will lead to stable production of eco-feeds.

For the promotion of eco-feeds, a system to stably produce and supply high-quality eco-feed through cooperation of food industries, feed producers, livestock farmers, etc., has to be built up. And then, it is important to get the understanding of consumers. For this purpose, certification systems for eco-feeds have been set up in two stages. As the first step, there is an eco-feed certification system that certifies eco-feed as feed. As the second step, there is a system to certify livestock products produced by livestock fed with eco-feed and their processed foods as "livestock products using eco-feeds".


In EU, a regulation prohibiting the use of feed prepared from food wastes containing meat not only for cattle but also for pigs and chickens, was enforced in 2002, because of the enormous damage caused by BSE since the latter half of the 1980s and for the control of foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever. In Germany and Austria, where its use was popular, a special grace period was set, and in 2006 the use was completely banned and continues to the present day. For nearly 20 years, food wastes containing meat have not been used as feeds in EU, which is very different from the situation in Japan.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. One of the goals was to "ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns," which indicated reduction of food loss. With this as one of the triggers, efforts to reduce food loss are becoming active in EU countries as well.

A research project on food loss reduction (REFRESH) was implemented with EU budget, and the four-year activity was completed in 2019. The use of food wastes as feeds is one of the targets of the project. The author was invited to this project twice in 2018 and 2019 to introduce eco-feed activities in Japan and to cooperate for the publishment of technical guidelines for feeding meat-containing food residues to omnivorous livestock such as pigs (Refresh, 2019). In the guidelines, referring to the case of JFEC mentioned above and the statistics on eco-feeds in Japan, the evaluation results of economic efficiency and environmental impact analysis when the activities similar to Japan are implemented throughout Europe are also shown, and the magnitude of the impact is explained.

Following the results of the Refresh project, the Netherlands is preparing to conduct a demonstration project to produce feeds from food wastes containing meat. Since it cannot be implemented within the EU due to current regulations, it will be implemented on Curacao Island, a member of the Netherlands located in the Caribbean Sea, which is beyond the scope of EU regulations, and a report for that is also published (Broeze et al. 2020).


Reducing food loss is a major challenge for us. It cannot be solved by short-term efforts, and it is necessary to work earnestly for long term. Eco-feeds are an effective means of reducing food loss, and it is no exaggeration to say that Japan's eco-feed activities are leading the world. However, when the international price of feed grains falls, many farms stopped using eco-feed from a management point of view. In addition, the use of eco-feeds may be restricted if distribution is stopped or heating standards are tightened to prevent infectious diseases. Unfortunately, the current production of eco-feeds is not expanding. In order to reduce food loss by promoting eco-feeds, we have to further develop technologies, further improve the social system that supports eco-feeds, and increase awareness of consumers for the importance of eco-feeds.


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