The EU may lift its animal byproduct ban for poultry and pig feed in the hopes of lowering costs, according to reports. The ban was initially imposed during a mad cow disease outbreak over ten years ago; its retraction would come with stricter safety rules imposed to prevent things such as cannibalism through the feed given to animals.

The cost to industry of implementing the new rules as well as consumer wariness of the risk of another mad cow-type outbreak are two factors still being considered. "We are currently discussing with member states the potential re-authorization of processed animal proteins in feed for poultry and pigs from 2014," said a spokesman for Tonio Borg, the EU's health and consumer policy commissioner.

In Europe, processed animal proteins can currently be used in pet food. As of June they will also be allowed in EU fish feed. The next planned step would be to allow them in poultry and pig feed, which would bring Europe back in line with many other countries, including the U.S., China, Thailand and Australia. The proteins would stay banned in the EU's ruminant sector, which includes cattle and sheep and was most closely linked to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease).

The EU hopes lifting the ban would ease a shortage of cheaper domestically produced protein. In 2011, the EU used around 49.9 million metric tons of protein source in feed but only half of it came from Europe. The rest was imported, with soymeal accounting for 80 percent of those imports, and soymeal prices doubled over a few months in 2012 due to the significant U.S. drought.