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The Sonac brand was created in 2002, barely a year after the EU ban on meat and bone meal rocked the meat rendering industry. Against all odds, Sonac is today redefining bone-derived minerals as a sustainable and effective source of animal nutrition.
By Ngai Meng CHAN
Once part of the leading Dutch company VION N.V., Sonac continues to stay relevant in the animal nutrition business by focusing on research and product development. Both factors have given it the ability to adapt to changes in the highly regulated meat rendering industry.


This focus proved to be particularly vital when the mad cow disease crisis in Europe in the 1990s culminated in the EU ban on the use of meat and bone meal in animal diets. Sonac promptly responded to the ban by looking at alternative products and markets, says Marnix Muylaert (pictured, right), sales manager at Sonac, in an interview with Livestock & Feed Business.


Moving forward, Sonac's research focus today for its minerals business is on the digestibility and bioavailability of its bone-derived mineral products, Calfos and Delfos, says Muylaert.


"With the increasing emphasis on sustainability, there is a rising global demand for our highly digestible minerals which produce less waste and is therefore less polluting. It has also become clear in recent years that the recycling of phosphorous through organic sources like Calfos and Delfos is important as the supply of conventional rock phosphate sources is not endless," he explains.

Calfos is the product name for Sonac's hydroxy-apatite:

- Produced from animal bones that have been crushed and degreased

- The gelatin is removed to a large extent and the remainder is dried and finely ground to improve the digestibility. The phosphate is still stored in its original hydroxy-apatite matrix. The remaining protein (12.5% in the product) is collagen and represents an additional nutria tional value

- Contains a high level of available and digestible phosphorus and calcium

Delfos is the product name for Sonac's dicalciumphosphate-dihydrate (DCP.2H2O):

- Produced from animal bones that have been crushed and degreased

- During the whole process, the focus is on achieving the highest possible bioavailability of phosphorus and calcium

- Contains a very high level of available and digestible phosphorus and calcium
A research conducted this year by the Netherlands' Wageningen University and Research centre indeed revealed that the digestibilities of calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) in broiler diets were generally higher for Calfos and Delfos when compared to inorganic mineral sources.


"Furthermore, we have made efforts to quantify the sustainability element in our organic mineral products, by calculating their carbon footprints," adds Muylaert.


On sustainability, he points out that in Europe there is still a ban on the use of many animal by-products in non-ruminant diets. According to him, this is a non-sustainable situation and the EU is working on a reintroduction programme for meat and bone meal (MBM) in swine

and poultry diets.


If the programme is implemented, it will follow the 2013 re-approval of the usage of non-ruminant MBM in aqua feed diets.


Sonac itself is doing its part for the meat rendering industry by working closely with the European Fat Processors and Renderers Association (EFPRA) to provide the EU commission with comprehensive information about animal by-products.


"Sonac's bone-derived mineral products are produced only in our own Darling Ingredient production plants - Calfos in the Netherlands and Delfos in France, USA and China - to ensure full traceability," Muylaert says.


Outside the EU, Sonac enjoys some relief from harsh EU regulations. "Most of these legal restrictions are only valid for the EU. Outside the EU, bone-derived minerals can also be used in ruminant diets," he says.


However, there are challenges pertaining to sustainability that Sonac has to contend with.


"Paradoxically, the return of MBM to the market foreshadows the reduced need for phosphorus-containing minerals. The increasing use of phytase by feed producers to release additional phosphorus will also reduce the need for such minerals.


Further, while the usage of bone-derived phosphates technically allows for the recycling of phosphorus, the current availability of bone-derived phosphates is still limited when compared to the vast amount of rock phosphates used in feed," Muylaert explains.


Unfazed by these potential challenges, Muylaert says, Sonac will continue to recommend to its customers the use of highly digestible and bioavailable mineral sources. It believes that doing so will ultimately ensure that their livestock will achieve maximum performance.


Now a brand of Darling Ingredients International (formerly VION Ingredients, a division of VION N.V.), Sonac has raw material sourcing as an additional challenge. Muylaert explains: "Within Darling Ingredients International, Sonac is one of the leading brands, next to Rousselot (gelatines), CTH (natural casings for the sausage business), Ecoson (bio-energy) and Rendac (fallen stock processing).


At Rousselot and Sonac, we process a lot of bones in order to extract the gelatine. The minerals dicalcium phosphate (Delfos) and tricalcium phosphate (Calfos) are both by-products from the bone-gelatine production. As such, drivers for gelatine demand globally are important for the availability of our bone-derived minerals, and will determine the growth of Sonac."


Currently, Darling Ingredients International produces bone-derived gelatines in China, Europe and North America.


"To Sonac, both established and emerging markets are of equal importance. Since the availability of our organic minerals is limited, we try to equitably distribute them to all regions in the world," Muylaert says.


In China, Sonac operates through a joint-venture company, Sonac China. "In other key Asian markets like Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam, we work with dedicated distributors. These distributors get consistent technical and marketing support from our regional sales managers."


In a region where feed production continues to register sharp growth driven by rising meat consumption, Sonac is more like a gift to Asia, providing it with mineral solutions which are of high-quality, reliable, traceable and sustainable.

Sonac's Official Website:
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