In the last couple of weeks, I have received four emails asking my opinion about feed additives. One particular person asked me how to distinguish between feed additives that actually work and those that are more marketing than substance. Indeed, a veritable dilemma faced by all of us since feed additive marketing exploded in the early nineties, and continues unabated to this day.

The easy answer to this question that I have been asked multiple times is to trust reputable suppliers, because presumably they have done their homework. Modern marketing, however, is focused more on reputability than product performance, and this just makes matters more complicated.

The correct answer would be to do a test -- a trial using live animals, ideally in a research facility; failing that, at a customer’s farm where there is a good level of trust and collaboration. But, as my contact from China said, with so many additives and so many brands of each additive, which ones to test and which ones to bypass? The time, effort and expense would be enormous. Indeed, I know more than one nutrition supplier that spends millions in testing additives, starting a new trial every week. What is really interesting is that the results tend to be farm-specific (or rather, circumstance-specific) and as such, these data are good only for their test farm; but I digress.

I hate to beat my own drum, but the only alternative left is to rely on people you trust. It does not have to be a consultant, like myself -- although it helps to have a long experience on most additives used in many countries around the world. Such person can be someone who already uses the additive in question and has no conflict of interest.

In other words, use your network of professionals. I am a nutritionist, but you will be surprised by the amount of information I have gathered on genetic lines, just by talking to customers and sharing experiences. Definitely my opinion on a genetic line is just that: an opinion; but getting together many such opinions can provide a first line of defense against an overwhelming amount of marketing material.

Bottom line, failing an owned research facility and spare cash to invest on trials, using your network to gather information can be as good as talking (and paying) a qualified consultant. Just make sure you share back with your network your own experiences.