What we feed farmed animals is not a particularly sexy or prominent topic in the wider world. But it should be. Over the last 60 years, farmed cattle, chickens, pigs and fish have increasingly been fed on grains, soy and fishmeal. Feed production and processing accounts for 45% of the carbon footprint of livestock production. Large swaths of the rainforest are disappearing so that we can plant soy, 75% of which is then fed to animals.
Complicating the picture further is the fact that 85% of the world’s soy comes from only four countries – the US, Brazil, Argentina and China. Should climate change hit these soy producing areas hard, the knock on effects on protein industries the world over will be profound and unsettling.
Aquaculture comes into the equation, too: we are rapidly depleting stocks of fish used as fishmeal and fish oil, and increasingly feeding fish what we feed chickens. Many of these feedstocks are high-quality sources of protein that could be used to feed humans, particularly in places where protein deficiency is common.
Let’s face it, we’re not all going to go vegetarian overnight so this is a massive impact we need to sort out.
We need to find radically different solutions to feeding animals, ones which maintain high levels of animal nutrition, but minimise the environmental impact of feed cultivation and release arable land and high-quality plant protein for human consumption.
The good news is there are pockets of really exciting innovation happening in this space, from insects to methane-based products to grass-based and algal solutions. The challenge is that many of these are still not at scale and not joined up.
At Forum for the Future, we want to help scale these innovations, turning them into an unstoppable systemic change in favour of sustainable feedstocks that reduce the pressure on land use for agriculture. Our Protein Challenge 2040 will be working in partnership with Waitrose, WWF, Evonik, Buhler, Calysta and Volac to conduct a phase of digital research on the topic of scaling up sustainable feed innovation, followed by two workshops.
By October of this year, our aim is to identify pilot projects which can accelerate the take up of sustainable feed sources, and which our partners have committed to take forward.
Over the coming months, we will be running a global, industry-wide survey focused on understanding the challenges and solutions in scaling up feed innovation, and mapping the key innovations taking place around the world today.
Please take 10 minutes to complete the survey here. Survey closes 6 July 2016.
We will share the results with you in July. We will also be running opinion pieces and discussion boards on hot topics in sustainable feed innovation, so do join the conversation.
- FAO, Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities, 2013
- WWF, Soy is Everywhere
- WWF, Soy is Everywhere