Efficient production typically lowers the final costs of production and leads to a smaller ecological footprint. Legislation and international agreements (e.g., EU Green Deal, Paris Climate Agreement) will be instrumental in leading agriculture into a more sustainable direction, in the event that there is no direct cost-benefit through more efficient output.
But certain elements of a more sustainable approach can be achieved by a higher value proposition of the final product. In this segment, we believe retailers will be instrumental in providing higher prices for milk, meat and eggs that fit a certain theme of sustainability, e.g., milk produced by dairy cows with a lower methane production.
It is also about consumer awareness. If the average consumer is prepared to pay just a bit extra for sustainable meat and milk, this would already overcome this hurdle. It is all about walking the walk and talking the talk.
[Feedinfo] Talking about walking the walk, you recently did a sustainability study on the use of your nutritional emulsifier, Excential Energy Plus, in broiler production. What were some of the findings from the study?
[Orffa] Excential Energy Plus is the result of long-term research into fat digestibility mechanisms and the effects of bile and other molecules on the emulsification of fat, the composition and structure of the chyme, and the digestibility of nutrients (fat, but also protein and carbohydrates).
A nutritional emulsifier, such as Excential Energy Plus, leads to improved fat, energy, protein and dry matter digestibility. This allows for formulating diets with a lower energy level, whilst maintaining performance. The result is that this product gives customers a cost advantage, whilst improving the ecological footprint of poultry meat production: a win-win situation. LCA evaluation through Blonk Consultants showed application of Excential Energy Plus in poultry diet reduced CO2-equivalents required for production of 1 kg poultry meat by no less than 3%. Additional benefits were found in lower acidification (-2.3%), lower eutrophication (-1.8%) and reduced land use (-1.9%).
The RSI (Return on Sustainability Index) calculated from the Blonk results equals 1:200 (1 kg CO2-eq. required for production of Excential Energy Plus, leads to a reduction of 200 kg CO2-eq. required for producing poultry meat). Poultry producers invest heavily in more sustainable production methods, e.g., through using solar or wind energy. The investment of adding Excential Energy Plus to the diet is low in cost, quick in returns, and with a big impact on a producer’s ecological footprint.
[Feedinfo] Considering the EU’s Green Deal objective of increasing the share of organic farming in the bloc to 25% by 2030, do you think that the animal agriculture industry is adopting sustainable solutions fast enough? Will European farmers be able to meet the EU’s objective?
[Orffa] It is clearly a very strong signal that FEFAC has published its feed sustainability charter last year. It shows the commitment of the industry to tackle this issue and shows how serious our industry is in meeting the challenges of the EU’s Green Deal. That is a strong sign, and we are committed to contribute to this objective.
In terms of animal production, the Green Deal sets extremely ambitious objectives to be met before 2030: reducing the use of antibiotics with 50%, reducing nutrient losses in the environment with 50%, and reducing the use of fertilizers with 20%. All stakeholders are working hard to reach these objectives, through investing in R&D and teaming up with scientists.
In a recent simulation, FEFANA demonstrated that the nitrogen excretion in pigs and poultry can be reduced by 40% to 50%, just by using single amino acids and enzymes.
However, 10 years seems to be a short period to reach the 25% organic farming target. This will require a fundamental change in the production chain.
Maybe it is wrong to focus too much on organic farming strictu sensu. The efficiency of organic farming is often less than conventional farming, which is maybe not the correct premise if we want to keep providing a growing global population with animal protein. It is probably easier and more effective to turn a conventional farmer into a more sustainable format.
[Feedinfo] This goes back to your earlier comment of taking a “best of both worlds” approach when looking at improving sustainability and the industry’s ability to feed the world. How do you see this playing out?
[Orffa] There will always be room for different systems. There are still people, who do not have access to meat and for whom meat is considered a luxury product. Their main concern is not whether a product is made in a sustainable way, but whether it is affordable and accessible. In many western countries, we are beyond this discussion. Meat consumption is more than just a quantitative requirement, the intrinsic quality of the production in all its aspects is just as important.
At the end of the day, thanks to the science behind animal nutrition and feed production, the conventional industry has the ability to change into a more sustainable format, meeting the ever-growing demands from the consumers on a global level. A main pillar of industrialisation in our industry has been the valorisation of by-products from food industry, this aspect will need to be further optimised to create an even more circular economy.
New trends may need to be addressed, such as fortification of plant-based meats or how to provide cultured meat with essential nutrients.
All this will be a constant process of change. Our industry will have to reinvent itself, but that is not dramatic. It is just a healthy challenge. After all, it is as Heraclitus stated: ‘there is nothing permanent, except change’.
[Feedinfo] A huge change we’ve all had to get used to recently is the coronavirus pandemic. What effect to you think it had or will have on the industry’s ability to go green? Do you see it delaying the process?
[Orffa] The COVID-19 pandemic made us all very much aware of our health and safety, of product quality and welfare. Many people have changed their lifestyle and, in addition, became very concerned about the quality of their food. This is clearly a pull factor in the discussion on a sustainable agriculture. Post corona, the antimicrobial resistance discussion, may find an audience being more concerned.
On the other hand, the crisis caused a serious turmoil in terms of meat prices and product flows, making it difficult for the industry to cope with these sudden changes. Because of this, food security, self-sufficiency and access to animal protein has been challenged in many countries and was put high on the agenda. This will undoubtedly delay the introduction of new measures and impact on animal agriculture.
[Feedinfo] Finally, how is Orffa striving to enhance sustainability on a global scale?
[Orffa] Through partnerships with universities and R&D institutes and by outsourcing manufacturing, we can react quicker to market trends than traditional ways of innovation which typically require heavy investments in hardware. The flexibility this offers positions Orffa well to address sustainability related challenges. Our partnership-model allows us to team up with up- and downstream partners in the supply chain to implement solutions.
Marubeni, a major shareholder in Orffa, also allows a great network throughout the whole peripheral industry and the power to accelerate innovation. Marubeni has addressed sustainability clearly in its’ long-term vision on climate change aiming for net-zero GHG emissions. Orffa has the know-how and drive to engineer tomorrows’ feed solutions, and such will be done in a sustainable way.