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Microbiome part of the science of sustainability

Chris Chavis of DSM-Firmenich shares her thoughts on some of the hot topics in animal nutrition and health during the DSM World Nutrition Forum 2023

Attendees gathered at the DSM World Nutrition Forum 2023 in Cancun, Mexico, on May 8-10.
Attendees gathered at the DSM World Nutrition Forum 2023 in Cancun, Mexico, on May 8-10.
Courtesy DSM-Firmenich

I attended my first DSM World Nutrition Forum (DSM is now DSM-Firmenich) May 8-10 in Cancun, Mexico. The event is three days jam packed with science, education, networking, food and fun. I came away from the event simultaneously exhausted and energized.

During the World Nutrition Forum, I was able to interview several industry experts who discussed with me trends and hot topics in animal nutrition and health. One of those experts was Chris Chavis, vice president of Animal Nutrition and Health Performance Solutions at DSM-Firmenich, who shared her thoughts about the microbiome and sustainability, among other things.

On the microbiome:

  • “The microbiome is the coolest topic out there right now because we’re finding we know so little about it, and I truly believe that we can become much more sophisticated and change how we’re thinking about health.”
  • “We call it animal nutrition and health. … That traditionally meant separate – animal health and animal nutrition. Going forward, there will not be a distinction because it is health through nutrition.”
  • “It’s not just the microbiome in the gut. It’s the gut-brain axis. It’s the gut-lung axis. It’s the gut basically influencing everything and we’re just a host for the microbiome.”
  • “We’ve got some research in this area as well, from a behavior standpoint, and that’s so fascinating. So, looking at different metabolites in the microbiome and how they might be able to influence pig behavior where they’re not tail biting. … Even with tail docking, there still can be irritation and tail biting that occurs and is a problem, not only for the welfare of the pig, but overall it impacts productivity. And so if you can then influence, through a feed additive, the microbiome that can modify the behavior of that animal so there’s less tail biting, that’s a super cool outcome.”

On sustainability and transparency:

  • “It’s important for producers to start monitoring where they are, and having some baseline measurements from a sustainability perspective. You can model for sustainability like you can for least-cost formulation.”
  • “The challenge that we have as an industry is we can make a lot more changes faster if the right incentives are in place for our customers.”
  • “As companies, we don’t often have the credibility with the consumer that some of the producers would have. So, I think it’s important to work together … in bringing transparency to the industry. I think the greatest challenge that we have as an animal protein industry is that the average consumer today is very far removed.”
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