Natural additives – what to call them?

Animal Nutrition Views

Ioannis Mavromichalis, Ph.D., gives his views on poultry, pig and dairy nutrition based on his experience as a nutrition consultant with clients around the world.

Recently, I had a very interesting conversation regarding additives derived from plants. It appears there is considerable uncertainty on what to call these products. Some call them natural additives, but this is a catch-all phrase; and really, what is not natural, anyway?

I believe the confusion arises from the fact that initially this category of additives included mostly products that were herbs and spices, and later just extracts or specific essential oils of these ingredients. However, nowadays such beneficial compounds as those found in herbs and spices are made artificially (so, are these no longer natural?). Even the term “essential oils” is misleading, because in animal nutrition we call “essential” only those nutrients that we must supply through the feed; additives by nature are useful ingredients, but certainly not essential!

So, what about botanical additives or phytogenic additives? Both terms sound sophisticated enough, but both actually mean “plant-derived;” wheat bran or soy hulls are also plant-derived. Perhaps such generic terms are more suitable, as they leave the door open for additives that are just finely ground up powders of plant origin, as well as extracts, but they clearly exclude commonly used but mostly artificially made compounds such as carvacrol (originally an extract of oregano and thyme) and cinnamaldehyde (an extract of cinnamon).

Do we need a new name?