Animal feed is a major component of producer profitability. As the demand for high-quality protein increases worldwide, maximizing the growth and nutritional intake of poultry, swine, and ruminants is more important than ever.

Additionally, advancing technology is decreasing animals’ production time to get products delivered quicker. It’s more important than ever for animals to get the most out of their feed during the limited time they have for growth. The feed industry has introduced enzymes as feed additives to help increase production.

Animal nutrition enzymes allow producers to optimize animal production sustainably by increasing nutritional intake, decreasing waste, and even minimizing illness. This page will discuss how animal nutrition enzymes work and can improve profitability.

What are animal nutrition enzymes?

Animal nutrition enzymes are proteins or protein-based molecules added to animal feed to help improve digestion and nutrient utilization. The use of enzymes as a feed additive goes back to the 1990s.

Some common components of animal feed, such as fiber and phytate, are hard for animals to digest and can lead to decreased meat or egg production. In fact, the common corn-soybean diet is only 85% digestible for animals, meaning they don’t get nutritional value from the remaining 15%.

Animal nutrition enzymes can help convert less usable components into a more digestible form that animals can use, improving feed efficiency and leading to better animal performance. Results can include improved growth, increased production, and decreased waste.

Eventually, animal feed enzymes are digested or excreted by the animal, so they don’t have any lasting effects on products like eggs or meat.

animal nutrition enzymes

The 3 enzyme modes of action explained

Enzyme modes of action refer to the different uses that each enzyme offers. Each enzyme has a different active site that fits a specific substrate. Below, we break down the three most common enzymes used in animal feed.


Phytase is an enzyme that acts on phytate by breaking it down and releasing it in a phosphorous form digestible to animals. Phytate and phytic acid are the main storage forms of phosphorus in grains and seeds, commonly found in animal feed.

Swine can’t digest phytate because they don’t produce enough of the enzymes to break it down, so phosphorus is excreted in their waste. Excreted phosphorus can have negative environmental impacts.

However, swine diets naturally contain a large amount of inorganic phosphorus. Phytate also has antinutritive effects that reduce the availability and utilization of other nutrients, hindering the animal’s growth and production.

Adding phytase enzymes to monogastric animals’ diets can improve the animals’ nutritional uptake and reduce phosphorus excretion. Additionally, phytase can help save on diet costs and reduce the soybean meal necessary in feed.


Carbohydrase refers to a class of enzymes that includes:

  • Xylanase
  • Glucanase
  • Beta-mannanase
  • Amylase

These enzymes work in the stomach to break down carbohydrates found in animal foods but are hard for animals to digest, such as fiber, starch, and non-starch polysaccharides. When carbohydrases break down these carbohydrates, they turn into a form that provides the energy the animal can use.

These hard-to-digest grain molecules are often found in the cell walls of raw materials, such as corn, barley, and wheat. Proper milling of these feed ingredients removes the hard coatings, which contain the indigestible cell walls, but they aren’t always removed perfectly and may end up in feedstuffs.

Carbohydrases allow producers to use lower-cost feedstuffs and improve animals’ nutrient availability — increasing their production. Additionally, the digestion of complex carbohydrates is beneficial because they act as substrates for intestinal microbes that can improve animals’ gut health.


Proteases are a newer technology in animal nutrition enzymes. These enzymes break down proteins and peptides in animal feed and increase amino acid availability. As a result, animals’ protein digestibility improves, which can have many health benefits.

For example, excess protein in poultry feed can lead to illnesses, such as necrotic enteritis, since the protein acts as a substrate for less desirable intestinal microbes. When these microbes build up in the digestive tract, they can become a feeding ground for illnesses that can kill poultry quickly.

When using proteases in animal feed, producers can lower feed costs because they don’t have to use as much protein for their broiler flocks to absorb the nutrition they need. Protein is often the most expensive feed ingredient, so lowering its usage can lower costs substantially. Proteases can also reduce nitrogen excretion and increase nitrogen utilization. Nitrogen is essential to animal growth, as it aids in producing animal tissue, eggs, wool, and milk. However, most animals don’t use nitrogen very efficiently, effectively wasting the nutritional value of some feedstuffs.

Benefits of using animal nutrition enzymes in animal feed

Animal nutrition enzymes can positively affect animal feed, benefiting flocks and herds. Enzymes can increase the nutrient digestibility of feed ingredients like cereal grains and soybeans. When animals can digest the nutrients in their feed, such as proteins and nitrogen, they get a greater nutritional value than if they eat the same feed without enzymes.

Enzyme solutions can also decrease the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus found in animal waste and minimize the impact of anti-nutritional factors.

By improving the nutritional value of animal feed, enzymes help animals grow faster and more uniformly. Additional benefits of enzymes include enteric health management and improved immune systems. When animals can’t fully digest the protein in their feed, it can act as a substrate for intestinal illnesses, such as necrotic enteritis.

Pathogenic bacteria also thrive in the excess of dietary nitrogen, which enzymes can help decrease. Plus, high-fiber diets can alter the gut’s viscosity, resulting in excess fermentation, which can potentially be fatal. Animal nutrition enzymes can help break down these fibers, making them easier for animals to digest.

Enzyme solutions can also allow producers to use a wider range of feed and protein sources. So, producers don’t have to rely on one kind of feed or feed ingredient.

The growth of the animal nutrition enzyme market has been substantial. The feed enzymes market was valued at $1.36 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach $2.2 billion by 2030. As more research about enzymes is conducted, the feed industry might find new approaches with new benefits.

Until then, the three top enzymes in the market can help producers keep their animals healthy and grow their profits.

Bacillus-based probiotics are also known to produce enzymes that can be added to animal feed. The different Bacillus strains have been shown to produce small doses of different enzymes, which can aid in feed digestion and nutrient availability.

How animal nutrition enzymes can improve producer profitability

The positive effects of animal nutrition enzymes can also benefit producers economically. For example, increased feed conversion rates and digestibility of more common materials like soybeans and grains allow producers to save on feed costs.

Additionally, animal nutrition enzymes can help increase the production of meat and eggs, as animals can grow more efficiently  with improved nutritional intake. Increased production while saving on feed can help producers increase their profits.

Lastly, animal nutrition enzymes can increase the uniformity of producers’ flocks and herds. When a flock or herd comprises animals of roughly the same size, producers can better predict their earnings and maintain a steady production over time.

Discover how eMax Feed Technologies can improve your profitability

To improve your profitability, try Engrain’s eMax Feed Technologies. Our feeds help address the removal of antibiotics, poor intestinal health, and growth performance.

Additionally, switching to eMax Feed Technologies can help lower feed costs. With the use of enzyme solutions, our feed technologies allow your flocks and herds to get more nutritional value from their food while saving your bottom line.

Studies show eMax’s formulation helps metabolize energy requirements in animal diets and reduces pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella, leading to healthier flocks and herds. Our feed technologies offer these health benefits while holding current feed conversion rates, weight gain, and increasing egg production and animal size.

Producers can use our formula to increase their profits with lower-cost feeds and higher growth rates.