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Enzymes in Animal Agriculture

[Enzymes in Animal Agriculture] As early as the 1700s,
scientists were aware of the digestion of meat by stomach secretions and the
conversion of starch to sugars by plant extracts and saliva. But the scientific community did not
understand exactly how it happened. In the 19th century Louis Pasteur concluded that
fermentation was catalyzed by a force within the yeast cells called “ferments.” Since that time, scientists have expanded
our collective knowledge about enzymes and their role in the digestive process.
And in the 1980s, enzymes were introduced into the feed industry. The feed industry has undergone
significant changes over the past 100 years. Geneticists began to explore ways to
modify animals to produce more meat while consuming less feed. And nutritionists were researching
animal nutrition requirements and new feed additives that would better
optimize growth performance through better utilization of the feed. Scientists were aware that diets are not
100% digestible. For example, in the best case scenario,
a chicken can only digest 90% of the corn and soy it is fed. Scientists eventually realized that more
nutrients could be made available to the animals by adding certain enzymes to the
diet. An enzyme is a catalyst. Most biological reactions won’t take
place unless that catalyst is present. Let’s think of a lock and key for a
moment. In this analogy, the enzyme is the lock and the substrate is the key. The enzyme has binding sites that bind the
the substrate. The enzyme then causes the dissolution
of the substrate and breaks it down. Finally, when the enzyme is finished, it
remains intact so it can move on to work on other substrates. Smaller keys, larger keys, or keys that do
not fit – representing incorrectly shaped or sized substrate molecules – will not fit
into the lock. Only the correctly shaped key opens a particular lock. Enzymes are natural. They are digestible proteins. And if another
enzyme is present, it could actually digest the enzyme. When we add enzymes to feed, we’re
adding natural components. All humans and animals naturally produce
enzymes in their digestive systems to break down the major nutrients such as
starch, protein, and fat. Humans and animals are not capable of
breaking down nutritional components such as fiber or phytic acid. So when we supplement enzymes in feed,
we help animals in several ways. We can add additional digestive enzymes
to optimize the digestion of nutrients. That can be very important for younger
animals with an immature digestive system. Or we can add enzymes such as cellulases,
which breakdown otherwise indigestible components.

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