What is fishmeal?

Fishmeal is a generic term for a nutrient-rich feed ingredient used primarily in diets for domestic animals, sometimes used as a high-quality organic fertilizer. Fishmeal can be made from almost any type of seafood but is generally manufactured from wild-caught, small marine fish that contain a high percentage of bones and oil, and usually deemed not suitable for direct human consumption.

These fishes are considered ‘industrial’ since most of them are caught for the sole purpose of fishmeal and fish oil production. A small percentage of fishmeal is rendered from the by-catch of other fisheries, and by-products or trimmings created during processing (eg fish filleting and cannery operations) of various seafood products destined for direct human consumption.

The fishmeal and fish oil industries are one of the few major animal industries existing today that still relies greatly on a “hunting-and-gathering” technique. Most fish rendered into meal and oil are captured at sea. Millions of tons of fishmeal are produced worldwide. Contrary to recent popular beliefs, most fishmeal and oil are produced from sustainable, managed, and monitored fish stocks, reducing the possibility of over-fishing. The supply is presently stable at 6.0 to 6.5 million tons annually.

Approximately 4 to 5 tons of whole fish are required to produce 1 ton of dry fishmeal. Peru produces almost one-third of the total world fishmeal supply. Other principal fishmeal-producing countries are Chile, China, Thailand, USA, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Japan (Table 1 ). Major groups of industrial fish rendered into fishmeal are anchovies, herrings, menhaden, sardines, shads, and smelts (Table 2 ).

Fish can be processed at sea in factory ships or caught and stored until they are transported to a processing facility on the coast. Fish is a highly perishable raw material, and spoilage will occur if it is not processed in a timely manner. Preservation using ice or refrigerated seawater is common.

Fish meal


Natural and sustainable, fishmeal provides a concentrated source of high quality protein and a fat rich in omega-3 fatty acid, DHA and EPA.
PROTEIN: The protein in fishmeal has a high proportion of essential amino acids in a highly digestible form, particularly methionine plus cistine, lysine, threonine and tryptophan. Present in the natural peptide form, they can be used with high efficiency to improve overall balance of dietary essential amino acids.
FAT: The fat will generally improve the balance of fatty acids in the feed to restore the ratio of omega-6: omega-3 forms towards 5:1; which is believed to be optimum; in the fat in many diets currently this ratio is considerably higher. With the optimum ratio and omega-3 fatty acids provided as DHA and EPA, general health of the animal is improved, especially where there is to be less dependence on routine medication.
A dietary source of DHA and EPA results in their deposition in animal products. This in turn will help to balance omega-6: omega-3 ratios in the human diets and provide pre-formed DHA and EPA required for infant development and for prevention of numerous disorders of the circulatory system, the immune system and to reduce inflammatory conditions.
ENERGY: Fishmeal is a concentrated energy source. With 70% to 80% of the product in the form of digestible protein and fat its energy content is higher than of many other proteins.
MINERALS AND VITAMINS: Fishmeal has a relatively high content of minerals such as phosphorus, in form with good availability to the animal. It also has a wide range of trace elements. Vitamins too are present at relatively high levels –B complex vitamins, including choline, biotin and vitamin B12 as well as A and D.



  • Faster growth and better-feed conversion giving lower production costs.
  • Improved immunity and less loss of performance from disease challenge, including vaccines.
  • Better results in the absence of routine dietary medication.
  • Better development of nervous system and bone structure etc.
  • Fewer losses form carcass condemnations due to sepsis, inflammation, cellulitis etc.
  • Changes composition of fat in meat with incorporation of low levels of long chain omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA). More effective than any other ingredients in doing so. Results in meat with a better fatty acid make-up in terms of omega-3: omega –6 ratio and presence of DHA and EPA, without compromising meat quality.


  • Higher productivity.
  • Better disease resistance.
  • Improved fertility –both in males and females.
  • Nutritional value of eggs for humans improved through deposition of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.


  • Faster growth –especially early weaned pigs.
  • Improved feed conversion.
  • Lower allergenic reaction in early-weaned pigs compared with other non-milk proteins.
  • Control better disease resistance – especially for pigs fed diets without medication.
  • Improved fertility – more pigs born.
  • Improved composition of fat in meat – DHA and EPA deposited in the meat.


  • In the ruminant fishmeal provides dietary protein and fat, which is subject to less change in the rumen than from other raw materials. The high quality protein escaping rumen degradation can provide limiting amino acids for digestion beyond the rumen, improving the balance of the amino acids absorbed from the intestine.
  • The protein degraded in the rumen improves fibre digestion. Productivity increases as a consequence.
  • The long chain omega fatty acids in fishmeal partly escape hydrogenation in the rumen. They contribute to fatty acid uptake. Fertility, development of the embryo and newborn are improved and disease resistance is improved. The benefits of fishmeal feeding are as follows:


  • Higher milk yields – increases typically 1 to 2 litres per day.
  • Milk protein content increased typically by 0.1 to 0.2% units.
  • High levels (1 kg or above) may depress milk fat – important for health conscious consumers.
  • Fertility, especially conception rate improved –typically by 10 to 15% units.


  • Faster growth.
  • Increases levels of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA + EPA) deposited in meat. Whilst meat from grass fed beef has low levels present other meat does not – fishmeal feeding will boost this.
  • Improved utilisation of high forage diets.


  • Improve fertility.
  • Faster lamb growth.
  • Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA+EPA) deposited in the meat.
  • Improved utilisation of high forage diets.
  • Can slim over fat lambs.

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