The advantages of commercially processed horse feed:
There is no question that commercially processed horse feed has provided convenience to horse owners and barn owners. It’s easy to rip open commercial processed feed bags, scoop the pellets or sweet feed or texturized feed, and then pour it in the bucket. Convenience and time saving in our daily lives is a big benefit.
Since commercially processed horse feed is, by and large, a “complete” feed, these formulas help make feeding less complicated, take the guesswork out of feeding, and in many cases reduce the need for additional multi vitamin/mineral supplementation. Many of the feed companies do recommend that there is no need to add more vitamins and minerals to their complete feed formulas.
Feed companies provide lots of different feed formulas, thus providing horse owners with a choice of which formula to feed each horse.
The disadvantages of commercially processed horse feed:
Since 1997, genetically engineered (GE) and genetically modified organisms (GMO) corn and soy have been in commercially processed horse feed.
While the scientific community continues to debate on the safety of GE and GMO food, one undeniable consequence is already occurring: the increased amount of pesticides and herbicides used to grow GMO and GE crops. While some of these GE and GMO crops have a herbicide tolerant gene inserted in them, the result has been that the weeds for which the farmers are spraying, are simply becoming more herbicide resistant; resulting in an increase in herbicide and pesticide use.
GM crops also accelerate the erosion of seed diversity and intensify existing soil erosion problems.
Feed formulas that use corn and or soy (and are not marked as GE Free or GMO Free) do not help us move to a greener more eco-friendly environment.
In the US most of our grains (corn, soy, oats, wheat) are funneled into commercial channels for processing — unlike countries like Canada and some of the EU nations, who rely more on a system of local feedmills or the grains are sold direct from the farm to other farmers for livestock feed. The advantage of a local feedmill/farmer arrangement is quality of grains rather than quantity, and the reduction in fossil fuel consumption for long distance shipping of grains to processors.
Grains are sorted at processing plants and graded. Superior graded grains go to human consumption. Lower graded grains go to animal consumption. By- products of the processing (soy hulls, wheat middlings for instance) become inexpensive fillers for horse feed. Because the grains for animals are nutritionally lower than the human graded grains, processed horse feed companies must add synthetic additives to provide nutrients. These synthetic additives (including vitamins) are made from coal tar derivatives, petroleum extracts, acetone, formaldehyde, and irradiated cattle brains (vitamin D).
The processing of the grains themselves can expose the grains to temperatures exceeding 450 degrees. Enzymes and other nutrients can’t survive in temperatures exceeding 145 degrees.
Sugar in the form of molasses is often added not only as a binder, but for palatability. Molasses is made from sugar cane and sulfur dioxide is used during the processing to lighten up the color of the molasses or help extend its shelf life. Sulfur dioxide is also used to help with the processing of sugar cane when the cane has been harvested at an early stage. Sulfur dioxide is a primary component of acid raid and is a pollutant of enormous concern to environmental scientists.
Corn syrups are also used as sweeteners in commercially processed horse feed. High fructose corn syrup can contain as much as 80% fructose and only 20% glucose. In fruit the ratio is usually 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Fruit contains fiber which slows down the metabolism of fructose and other sugars. But unlike the fructose in fruit, fructose in High Fructose Corn Syrup is absorbed very quickly.
Commercial processed horse feed companies rely on further processing after the grains are mixed with the sweetners, additives, and preservatives to produce the pellets or extruded or texturized feeds. The further processing of what originated as food now becomes a food product.