The tropical tuber Manihot esculenta goes by many names, including cassava and manioc. I first made the crop's acquaintance as yuca in rural Honduras, where farmers often planted it on marginal land where other crops wouldn’t grow well. Yuca resisted many pests and survived drought even in sweltering Choluteca near Honduras' Pacific coast. Although low in protein, cassava provides abundant starch to fuel a farmer’s daily labor. Farmers in Central America have grown yuca for thousands of years after Indigenous people spread the crop from its homeland in what is now Brazil.
Following Spanish and Portuguese colonialism, cassava spread to Africa and Asia. Around the tropics and subtropics, yuca is now a major source of carbohydrates and some vitamins. The crop has become rooted in regional traditions and cuisine. Nigeria and Thailand are major producers, but Brazil remains one of the main growers of the crop.
Cassava fiber in pet food
In cassava’s northern Brazilian homeland, farmers continued their ancient tradition of yuca farming into the present, but now massive plantations also grow the crop. However, after processing their harvests, these plantations were left with fiber that seemed to have few uses. Scientists with pet food ingredient supplier Kemin researched uses for manioc co-products.
Cassava fiber could potentially be used as a fiber source in dog food and cat food, Carlos Bacal, Kemin’s technical service manager, told Petfood Industry. Cassava fiber was safe with inclusion of up to 12%.
“The cassava fiber used in the study is a co-product of cassava processing by large factories to manufacture starch for human consumption,” Bacal said. “Without the possibility of reuse, this material would represent a great challenge as a pollutant that is difficult to treat and dispose of.”
“The cassava fiber was closer to the beet pulp in some parameters and in others to microcrystalline cellulose, always to increase the benefits or to reduce undesirable factors.
“The large database of the studies suggested that the cassava fiber has a potential to compensate the inclusion of beet pulp or microcrystalline cellulose,” he said. “Two kind of fibers which are not produced in sustainable scale in Brazil. The possibility of import substitution could bring economic and environmental benefits to the country.”