BLOG - Tackling climate change through animal feed

Livestock farming has a significant impact on the environment, while it also provides societal benefits through nutritional food and environmental services. It is clear though that in Europe the 10% share of total GHG emissions lies well below the global average. Nevertheless, many ‘anti-livestock’ environmentalists today still quote the 10 year-old FAO report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” which claimed that farm animals globally are responsible for 18% of the total GHG emissions. In 2013, the FAO already brought its estimation down to 14.5% in a report called “Tackling climate change through livestock”. Most importantly, this report stressed that improved productivity and animal performance through better quality and more resource efficient feed are the key emission mitigation strategies that help with tackling climate change. In the aftermath of the ambitious commitments made at COP21 in Paris, I proudly announce that our innovation driven compound feed manufacturing industry is ready to provide solutions.

It is well-known that the feed production stage represents a significant contribution to the environmental footprint of animal products such as meat, eggs, milk and cheese. However, when keeping the FAO’s recommendations in mind, the feed stage is also exactly the stage where the biggest potential for further GHG emission reduction lies. It is therefore safe to say that compound feed manufacturing is actually more part of the solution, than part of any problem. In order to develop the most accurate mitigation strategies, the creation of a sound, horizontal methodology to allow for the precise measurement of the environmental footprint of feed production is a pre-requisite.

The development of this horizontal methodology through the PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) is part of the European Commission’s goal to create a circular economy with a single market for green products, safeguarding full transparency throughout the supply chain when it comes to claims made on environmental performance. As regards the PEF, FEFAC and its members invest a great amount of resources into the pilot focussed on feed, which will logically form the basis for other pilots focussing on animal products. It is important that the outcomes of measuring environmental footprints are comparable at global level. Therefore, FEFAC also contributes to international projects such as the FAO LEAP (Livestock Environmental Assessment Partnership) and the Global Feed LCA Institute. In the latter project, coordinated by the International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF), FEFAC aims to provide a global public LCA database for all globally traded feed ingredients.

The compound feed sector looks at the drive for assessing environmental performance with great confidence and I am personally happy with the fact that sustainability has become such an important topic in livestock farming. We have known for many years already that we excel in resource efficiency because of our extensive use of co-products from processing industries such as oilseed crushing, sugar refining, beer brewing, biofuel generation as well as co-products from bread, biscuits & chocolates manufacturing.

It is thanks to the vast nutritional know-how of compound feed manufacturers that the most sustainable use of secondary resources is made possible, with the additional benefit that there is less pressure on land-requiring production of native crops. With the prospect of growing global demand for animal protein in the wake of finding climate change mitigation options, I am confident European feed manufacturing will play a key role in delivering measurable solutions to meet the challenges of the future.

Ruud Tijssens is President of FEFAC, the European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation