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Pigmentation in animal nutrition: a real challenge, stability of complex compounds!

What are the challenges of pigmentation?

The colour of certain animal products such as eggs, fish and shrimp is a quality cue that greatly influences consumer decision. Expectations vary depending on the market and, more importantly, they evolve over time. Until recently, broiler pigmentation was recognised mainly in Southern France as a symbol of quality. This is due to the higher content of corn historically present in the birds’ feed, which naturally pigments the animal’s flesh. Though previous consumer demands for colour represented only one third of the volume of broilers produced in France, we estimate this market will reach two thirds of the production in the coming years. As a result, downstream sectors in the value chain will experience greater demands in terms of intensity and regularity of colour.

Controlling the pigmentation process, predicting the outcome and conducting measurements will therefore be the most important performance components in terms of quality and cost-effectiveness.

What are the pigment sources in animal nutrition?

Pigment poudre jauneAlthough there are more than 600 known carotenoids, the list of those authorised for use as additives in animal feed is highly restricted and very few raw materials contain them. We can break down the group of pigments used as additives into two categories: 1. synthetic, produced from chemical syntheses; 2. natural, extracted from organic substrates (marigolds or paprika). Similar to many additives, they are only authorised for certain species and must comply with maximum incorporation rates in feed, and in some cases, with MRLs (Maximum Residue Limits) in animal products

European union-approved additives for use in the pigmentation of animal products

Although downstream sectors of the value chain almost always require additives (natural or synthetic) to meet their pigmentation objectives, we must also consider raw material sources. These sources can provide sufficient colouration when feed formulas contain high levels of corn and pigmentation objectives are low. There are only two commonly used raw materials that provide pigment: corn and alfalfa, as well as some of their by-products.

raw material pigmentation sources in feed

Pigments, fragile and unstable compounds.

Carotenoids are highly unsaturated molecules. Though this property is responsible for their pigmenting power, it is also why they are incredibly fragile. In fact, carotenoid compounds are highly sensitive to oxidation and isomerisation. Several factors are likely to contribute to these reactions: the presence of choline, trace elements, acids, light and oxygen.

Stabilising pigments is all the more important given that the radicals derived from the initial oxidation of carotenoids cause and accelerate the reaction. Therefore, it is important to prevent the onset of the oxidation process. Because pigments used in animal feed are fragile and difficult to stabilise, their level of stability ranges greatly from one marketed product to another, especially since ethoxyquin was banned in 2017.

the stability of various sources of paprika extracts

The stability of various sources of marigold extracts


Given that pigment stability is a key issue, our experts have developed a new technology, Yelos, which ensures this stability via a separate premix source, in non-transparent, hermetic packaging and with a reinforced antioxidant protection. This technology is also based on the pigment sources that are selected according to their stability. 

Our experts are there to advise you on your pigmentation strategy and on the optimisation of pigmentation in formulation, feel free to contact them!


Related Topics


Technical and economic optimisation of animal feed. Formulation, specifications, matrix management and development support.

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