The animal fat industry

The Dutch oils and fats industry contains several companies that make products with a specific natural origin: animals. These companies produce ingredients from by-products of the meat and livestock industry and from fish. The most important farm animals in the Netherlands that are kept for their meat, are the pig, the cow and the chicken. Fish oil is extracted mostly from herring, pilchard, menhaden and sardine.

In volume, the import of animal fat in the Netherlands amounted to 524,000 tonnes. The export had a volume of 221,000 tons (2022).

Animal by-products

Up to half of every farm animal kept for food is not suitable for human consumption. Animal fat companies convert these by-products from the meat and livestock industry into usable materials. European regulation, which lays down the hygiene requirements for products of animal origin, determines what is immediately suitable for consumption and what by-products can be used to produce ingredients for various applications (see also the next chapters).

Companies that process oils and fats with an animal origin, are specialised in the process of transforming these by-products into ingredients of the highest possible quality. By strongly heating the by-products in their factories, they separate them into animal fats and animal proteins. Depending on the type of by-product, the companies produce ingredients for a wide range of applications, such as pharmaceuticals, pet/animal feed, aquafeed, home and personal care products (oleochemistry), fertilisers, soil improvers and sustainable biofuels.

Two member companies of MVO play this role: Ten Kate and Sonac. Together they form the VVS: the Dutch association of producers of animal proteins and fats. The companies are two of the larger producers of animal fats and proteins in Europe. They export their products around the world.

The animal-based food value chain

Source: EFPRA


Sustainable and circular

Animal by-products contribute to the protection of our planet because they are a sustainable alternative to fossil raw materials. Since Western consumers nowadays choose not to eat certain parts of the animal, the share of by-products has become much larger in recent decades. Fortunately, we are able to use more and more parts of the animal for all kinds of applications. This adds value to the meat processing industry and makes the animal by-products-industry naturally sustainable.

Animal proteins and fats from by-products have much lower CO2 emissions than non-sustainable vegetable alternatives and fossil fuels. By replacing them, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80%. The animal by-products sector contributes to a circular bioeconomy that reuses, recovers and recycles resources instead of producing 'waste'.

Fish oil

The Netherlands does have fishermen and a fish auction, but no factories that produce crude fish oil. We mainly import our crude fish oil from Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Peru and Chile. The Dutch fish oil processors are engaged in the import and processing of crude fish oil into refined fish oil. Refined fish oil is used in foodstuffs, food supplements, animal feed and fish feed. Fish oil is also used because of its special fatty acid composition as a special oil, for example to keep leather supple.

MVO member companies Bioriginal and Smit & Zoon have the import, processing and/or application of fish oil as their main activity or as an important secondary activity.

Animal fat that is not included in our sector is, among others, butter (dairy).



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