Thought Leadership

New Report Talks Sustainable Animal Feed

 

A recent report by Forum for the Future entitled The Future of Food, asks “Are Food Businesses on Track to Deliver a Sustainable Protein System by 2020?”

The Future of Food

As the reports explains, food systems are at the center of major social and environmental challenge facing our planet, but these systems also have the opportunity to create significant positive changes. Population growth and changing food demands, coupled with decreasing natural resources, continue to elevate the complexity and challenge of nurturing our global food source. The report suggests that food systems “can transform at scale and pace to deliver sustainable nutrition that is good for people and the planet.” While many companies are making an impact, the writers offer a call to action for more comprehensive and bold strategies.

A primary focus of the report is the need for more sustainable protein sources. A key element of achieving more sustainable protein involves how current animal-based protein is grown. As the organization’s Protein Challenge “Feed Behind Our Food” outlines:

“Animal feed production and processing accounts for approximately 45% of the GHG emissions associated with livestock production (with land use change, which varies significantly by region, being a major cause of these emissions.)”

The Challenge

Agricultural production for all purposes already consumes 70% of the planet’s arable land and 55% of fresh water supplies. Most ag experts agree that global demand will require food production to double by 2050. By doing the math, we can easily see that we need to use our current resources more efficiently. Meeting demand for the feeding the animals that feed the world requires more land than possibly available. While agricultural technology continues to advance to meet these challenges, the report challenges companies to design better strategies that shift towards a more sustainable feed source.

Looking for Solutions

The report calls for a number of strategies to deliver more sustainable feed systems, including responsible sourcing, zero deforestation, and more efficient feed diets. The writers also advocate for using underutilized resources that already exist:

“using waste, co- and by-products not fit for human consumption in feed, supporting more circular, closed loop methods and reducing the land required to grow feed.”

How are companies doing to meet this challenge? Of the companies reviewed for the report, only 11% had public commitments for upcycling food by-products into nutritious feed ingredients.

While a comprehensive strategy must rely on many solutions, a commitment to sustainable feed can have a significant impact. At Green Field Solutions, we help companies repurpose about 2.5 billion pounds of by-products annually. That’s the GHG emissions equivalent of taking more than 29 million cars off the road per year. We direct these products into the highest economic and sustainable uses. By reusing what we already have and offsetting feed production, we are helping our clients use their resources more effectively and be better stewards of the planet. Together, we can scale up sustainable solutions.

Tales from the Conference Trail

 

This fall, during what I like to call “conference season,” I attended several food sustainability conferences. I attend conferences every year to learn about and share insights about the latest sustainability efforts and what still needs to be done. This year I really started to see some themes emerging across the conferences.

There are internal barriers companies can change to get more food to hungry people.

The fact is that 37 million Americans don’t have enough to eat. While food insecurity exists in every state, every county of the US, some communities are clearly impacted more than others.

However, a significant amount of food is wasted in the food manufacturing and distribution process. “Unsold or underutilized product is often not a significant driver of P&L, so it often doesn’t get the attention it deserves.”

Companies are committing to building a culture of efficiency and waste reduction. This includes new strategies and partnerships to divert human-grade food to feed hungry people. Many companies are rethinking their purchasing and supply chain strategies and policies to more effectively direct resources to their most economical and sustainable use. Companies are also realizing the value in repurposing excess resources into nutritious ingredients for pet food and animal feed. While these resources are no longer human food grade, they provide a valuable, cost-efficient input for animal diets, while keeping the product out of landfill. This process closes the loop and keep food resources in the food supply chain to feed hungry people.

Partnerships Are Key

Industry and community relationships will drive the optimization of supply chain sustainability. There exist many great partnerships to maximize the value of excess food resources. However, many companies cite lack of trust and transparency as a barrier to supply chain optimization.

Companies are seeking new kinds of partnerships. We face unprecedented challenges in feeding the world while protecting the planet and its resources. We can’t face new challenges with the same old partnership models. New models are being employed to drive innovation. Some leading companies are creating joint profit pools that get away from the annual procurement process and lead to greater transparency. They are finding holistic solutions that demonstrate how social, economic and environmental gains can be realized jointly.

Successful companies are learning that these new partnership dynamics make a difference from the Board Room to the factory floor. Sustainable, value-added corporate cultures are created when employees can clearly articulate what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and how their role has an impact on the communities in which they live and work.

Upcycling is the New Trend

We routinely hear the statistic that 40% of food is wasted in the US. From consumers to employees to investors, there is increasing demand for companies to stop wasting so much food. The renewable economy is a key part of sustainable and profitable business strategies. Consumers also want up-cycled products and companies are forming to meet this demand. Entrepreneurs are finding that products that have a food waste reduction story behind them are more popular and move faster.

The energy I witnessed from companies to improve food recovery efforts gave me hope that we are all trying to better value our precious food resources. At the core of Green Field Solutions is a passion for meeting the needs of our clients, partners and customers, while making the most out of excess food resources. While we’ve been upcycling by-products for 45 years, I think the most exciting times in this industry are still to come. Here’s to 2020!