The path to a better animal feed system

Part 3/3: Our work to shift the feed system

This is the final part of a series on the Path to a Better Animal Feed System. In Part I, I outlined why action on animal feed sustainability matters, giving a sense of the future direction for feedstocks. Part 2 covered some of the current innovation and in this final piece, I’m sharing the work of the Feed Compass collaboration that works to accelerate the momentum across the animal feed system to act on sustainability.

If you work in an organisation that’s interested in taking bold action on feed sustainability, do get in touch and join us in driving a more sustainable feed system.

Collaborating to shift the feed system

Organisations acting alone are unable to drive the change that’s needed across the feed system. This was clear as we examined the challenges and opportunities facing the future of animal feed (see Part I and II of this blog).

Collaboration is crucial and on this basis, Feed Compass was launched by an ambitious and diverse international group (including Ahold Delhaize, Calysta, Evonik, Forum for the Future, Volac, Waitrose, and WWF-US).

Early in the project, we ran a global feed survey, exposing the challenges and solutions in scaling sustainable feed innovation. Barriers included the financial cost of novel feeds, low awareness about feed sustainability and a lack of methods for comparing how sustainable different types of feed are, across environmental, economic and social criteria. To date, we have concentrated on tackling the latter two barriers.

Coming up in this blog...

a) Building the case for action

b)The Feed Compass framework

c) Feed Compass pilots

d) Market incentives and growing the project

a) Building the case for action

Bringing together the insights from various events and workshops, we launched the Feed Behind our Food report in 2018, a guide for retail and food service to act on feed. Since then, we have continued to help build a collective understanding of the feed system, including key barriers, trends and opportunities for taking greater action.

Figure 1. a) Feed Protein Vision workshop in Amsterdam (March 2018). b) Mapping different animal feed supply chains to capture the main stages, flows of materials and impact areas in the supply chain (available here).

This often involves contributing to important work already happening. In 2018, we presented at the first international conference focusing on sustainable animal feed, Feed Protein Vision. We have also had opportunity to contribute to reports such as the Livestock Levy report by FAIRR, as well as consulting informally towards the Meat: The Future white paper, written for and debated by the World Economic Forum (WEF). At the end of 2018, we partnered with WEF to run a joint workshop for companies exploring pathways towards more sustainable feed.

Momentum seems to be growing and it feels the tide is starting to turn, with increased interest from organisations. One example, is Danish Crown’s Meat 2030 project, that included a collaborative exercise to identify nine pathways for a sustainable future. This highlighted the need for sustainable feed, better transparency, less and better meat and a shift in the broader food system. Danish Crown have now committed to halve their climate impact by 2030.

Sustainability also appears to be increasingly discussed by the mainstream feed industry and in March 2019, we were pleased to bring Feed Compass to the main stage at the 6th Annual Global Feed and Food Congress in Thailand.

b) The Feed Compass framework

One of the barriers we identified for driving a more sustainable feed system was the lack of methods for comparing the sustainability of different animal feeds. Without a common way of defining ‘sustainable feed’ and no common language along the supply chain to send clear signals, there is a risk of action that has unintended consequences - focused on a narrow set of sustainability outcomes without considering the full picture.

Therefore one of the outputs from our work has been the Feed Compass Framework. This outlines the qualities of a sustainable animal feed and provides a basis for making comparisons.

This was developed in partnership with companies and by working with academics at the University of Minnesota, we’ve explored some of the data and metrics that underpin each of these qualities.

The intention is that a common framework helps to support a common language along the supply chain, brokering new conversations about sustainable feedstocks. It puts sustainability alongside animal nutrition and financial viability, and helps put into context some of the claims made by novel feed ingredients. Our intention is not to develop a technical framework but to start to pull together the many existing technical standards into a common, holistic overarching framework.

Figure 2. The Feed Compass Framework: qualities of a sustainable animal feed

c) Feed Compass pilots

We’re now bringing the Feed Compass Framework to life, testing its ability to inform decision making and support conversations between producers, feed companies and retailers.

We know from experience the importance of case studies in helping companies specify and invest in new practices or types of feed. However a lot of valuable industry thinking and trials are difficult to access. In 2019, we intend to develop and publish a set of case studies, showcasing how companies are starting to work with their supply chains to evaluate the sustainability of their animal feed, using this knowledge to shape decision making.

Our hypothesis is that these Feed Compass Pilots will help raise awareness, stimulating greater industry innovation and commitments. The project will also identify the data gaps and research needs, as well as other barriers to scale.

Figure 3. An illustrative example of a risk-based approach to comparing animal feeds - the grey circle representing the ‘normal’/base-case feed, compared with a new piloted feed.

d) Market incentives and growing the project

Alongside the Feed Compass framework and pilots work, we believe there’s a need for a serious dialogue about shifting market incentives. In 2018 we started the process of convening companies to identify incentives that would help bring positive change across the feed system. Specifically, we are focusing on working with influential companies to identify and commit to more ambitious, joined-up policies that will drive more sustainable animal feed. We have started to map various existing commitments, particularly in retail and food service, with the aim of identifying gaps and opportunities.

As we move forwards, we’re particularly interested in expanding our reach into Asia and Africa where there is the greatest growth in the demand for animal feed. To succeed in this, we are working with Forum offices in other geographies and exploring new partnerships with other global initiatives.

Joining Feed Compass

Organisations are increasingly asking “what good looks like” on sustainable animal feed. The Feed Compass collaboration helps to inform organisations as they build their strategies. For example, by gaining unique insights into the potential of novel feedstocks.

More importantly, Feed Compass gives organisations a platform to collaborate, working with others to drive a conducive policy and enabling environment for new solutions to achieve scale.

As we move forwards with our activities, including the Feed Compass pilots, expanding our geographical reach and driving market incentives, we welcome organisations to join us in helping lead the development of Feed Compass. To find out more, contact Sam Smith:

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