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Food firms must get serious about feed

Retailers and foodservice companies must start scrutinising what is fed to the livestock in their supply chains, according to a new report by Forum for the Future.

Nearly half of global agricultural land is used for livestock feed production and more than a fifth of wild caught fish is fed to animals. Feed contributes to 45% of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, and much of it comprises high-value foods rich in nutrition, such as soy and maize. Commodities like soy are also linked to deforestation.

Given that demand for animal feed is only set to grow as meat consumption rises, food companies need to start recognising the risks this poses to their businesses.

“Ensuring supply will become more difficult with increasing demand, limited scope for agricultural expansion and dwindling natural resources,” the report reads. “Any business with an eye to the future needs to be examining their supply chain and planning how to ensure its long term viability.”

The report sets out a list of actions that businesses can take, including key questions to ask suppliers and how to build a new feed strategy.

Waitrose is one of those taking the lead – the retailer is working towards using 100% sustainable soy and sourcing more feed raw materials from the UK and Europe.

“Customers increasingly demand more transparency, not just on what goes into a product but also on how it is produced,” said Waitrose agricultural manager Duncan Sinclair. “Addressing the sustainability of animal feed by bringing it closer to home through our sustainable forage protein project has not only benefited the environment but has helped our farmers improve efficiency.”

The report also highlights some of the new feed products in the pipeline. Companies such as Calysta, Protix, Ynsect and Evonik are investing hundreds of millions in scaling up production of innovative, traceable feed ingredients. This includes insect-based protein (which forms a natural part of poultry and fish diets), oil from natural marine algae, feed additives like amino acids, and protein derived from methane-eating bacteria.

Sandra Vijn, a director of WWF US’s food program, said: “It will be very challenging to meet the future demands for livestock and farmed fish products in sustainable ways without transforming the way we produce animal feed. Food and feed companies alike need to recognise the risks and opportunities this presents to their businesses and work together to achieve this transformation.”