Choosing concrete goals to drive improved feed sustainability required ‘a bit of a journey’
Sustainability has always been a top priority for Europe’s feed industry trade association, FEFAC. But when the events of this year, including the release of the EU’s new Farm to Fork strategy, triggered a desire to put its goals into writing, sustainability proved to be a difficult thing to nail down.
“Sustainability is a topic that we’ve been working on for quite some years already, but this is a real attempt at moving the needle and taking a proactive approach to deliverables,” FEFAC President Asbjørn Børsting said. But when it came time to nail down concrete, measurable goals for the industry, he said FEFAC faced “a bit of a journey.”
Børsting said FEFAC immediately identified two goals: climate neutrality, and responsible sourcing of feed ingredients. But arriving at the three additional goals that rounded out the charter FEFAC released in September required more consideration, Børsting said.
“We needed a few discussions to best capture our role in the circular economy,” he said. “We understood that the key element here is the approach of how nutrients are managed, in the feed ingredients, the feed formulation, the animal digestion and the manure excretion. In addition, the feed industry is an expert in making value out of co-products stemming from other food and bioenergy production processes.”
With time, FEFAC arrived at what became the charter’s second principle after climate neutrality — “nutrient efficiency” — to capture the feed industry’s potential to foster sustainable food systems. The need to tackle antimicrobial resistance and societal concern about the way livestock is treated led to the fourth principle — animal health and welfare, and the lessons of this year’s pandemic rounded out the charter with a fifth target — socio-economic resilience.
The charter doesn’t necessarily represent a requirement or mandate, but does outline 57 specific actions by FEFAC members that align with the five high-level industry goals identified by the report.
“This should provide plenty of inspiration to the whole FEFAC membership on what actions would help the European feed industry deliver on the commitments,” Børsting said. Highlighted actions include goals and programs to reduce company emissions, co-product inclusion targets, and commitments to phase out the use of zinc oxide and antibiotic-medicated feed.
FEFAC has also called on members to begin tracking metrics tied to the charter’s five goals in the hope that the data can be used to track industrywide progress. Børsting said FEFAC plans to release the first charter progress report in June 2021 and will update the report each year thereafter through 2030.