Hemoglobin powder, also known as red cells, is a blood product that is often confused with blood meal. However, there is a big difference between hemoglobin powder and blood meal in terms of processing and product quality. As a result, hemoglobin powder has a higher protein digestiblity and contains less biogenic amines compared with blood meal.
What is Hemoglobin?
Hemoglobin powder is obtained by fractionation and spray drying of blood from healthy animals collected at slaughterhouses. Hemoglobin powder is a sustainable and highly digestible animal protein that is often used in animal feed and pet food as an alternative to less sustainable fish meal or vegetable proteins like soybean meal.
What is the nutritional value of hemoglobin?
Hemoglobin powder is a rich source of dietary essential amino acids with a high biological value. Thanks to the gentle spray drying technology, the proteins of hemoglobin remain highly digestible. During spray drying, the hemoglobin is dried for a short period of time at moderate temperature which keeps the proteins unharmed and retain their bio-availability. For instance blood meal on the contrary is contact dried at high temperatures for a prolonged period of time, but this intensive way of drying damages the proteins and reduces protein digestibility within the animal.
A recent conducted field trial in rainbow trout showed the apparent total tract digestibility of crude protein to be 94% with hemoglobin powder and 50% for blood meal. Hence, we may say that the way of processing has a big influence on protein digestibility and as a consequence protein evaluation and selection by nutritionists.
Hemoglobin powder contains very low levels of heat stable biogenic amines. Hence, there is no bacterial spoilage in terms of bad smell, potential toxins and loss of amino acids. Fish meal and blood meal have usually high levels of heat stable biogenic amines with negative bacterial consequences as a result.
Another important contribution to animal health is the absence in hemoglobin powder of anti-nutritional factors that negatively affect nutrient absorption. Vegetable proteins generally contain high levels of anti-nutritional factors and even mycotoxins that can harm the health of animals.
Advantages of hemoglobin in animal feed
Hemoglobin powder is often used as a low phosphorus, highly palatable and digestible animal protein source in fish, shrimp, poultry and mink feeds. Especially fish and shrimp feed producers are actively looking for sustainable alternatives for fish meal with similar high digestibility figures and hemoglobin powder meets these requirements. Also within dry pet food, mink feed, piglet feed and poultry starter feed, hemoglobin powder is included in the diet for its high protein digestibility. Within dairy cows, the use of hemoglobin powder has positive effects on the milk production and the fat and protein levels of the milk. In wet pet food, hemoglobin powder is a colorant and could for instance replace caramel.
We find many other functionalities and benefits of the use of Hemoglobin powder, such as its homogeneous and stable composition. Hemoglobin powder has a low nutritional variability between batches, unlike other animal derived products, such as fish meal, which depends on the season and different species of fish. In addition, due to its high microbiological quality, hemoglobin powder has a shelf life of two years, being easily storable.
From an environmental point of view, hemoglobin powder has several advantages as well:
- The most obvious one is the low nitrogen contamination thanks to the high digestibility.
- In addition, animal by products produced under the concept of circular economy, such as hemoglobin powder, reduce the carbon footprint of the entire production process and the food chain.
Thanks to its iron content, hemoglobin powder has an interesting coloring effect, also providing aroma and flavor to formulations for animal feed.
For all these reasons, hemoglobin powder represents an increase in productivity and greater profitability in the production process of animal feed.
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How to use hemoglobin?
The inclusion level of hemoglobin powder is subject to the desired result of the nutritionist, but generally we would recommend inclusion levels between 5-15% for fish feed, poultry feed, mink feed, pig feed, ruminant feed and dry pet food. Within shrimp feed, we would be looking at inclusion levels of 3-5% and in wet pet food at levels up to 2%.