“The diet of layers is easier to modify in terms of feed ratio, and they are not as sensitive as broilers, given their growth demands, to any dietary change. So we are seeing full fat soy beans and soy cake from Danube Soya farmers being used in layer rations in Austria, Germany, Serbia and Switzerland,” Ursula Bittner, manager of the Austrian headquartered Danube Soya Association, told this publication.
That association promotes GM-free soy cultivation in the EU and a migration away from reliance on third country protein imports.
One of the biggest retailers in Serbia, Mercator, is now selling eggs from layers fed Danube Soy. Labelled under the brand name PL Kplus, the eggs are on the shelves in 300 of the retailer’s outlets in that country, said Bittner
Since November 2013, 80% of all laying hen production in Austria has switched to Danube Soya certified meal. “More recently, Austria has seen additional brands, such as Toni’s Freilandeier, convert to eggs from birds fed the GM free soy,” she added.
The layer market in Austria is currently using around 45,000 to 50,000 tons of Danube Soya meal per year, said Bittner.
And, in Germany, eggs of the brand, Mein Bayern, are now Danube Soya labelled, she added.
“We are working to develop the broiler and pork segments as target markets, but it is going to take a little while longer,” she explained.
However, some pork producers, such as Austria’s Hütthaler have committed to feeding a percentage of their animals with the GM free soy meal: “It is challenging for pork farmers to make the switch but Hütthaler is focused on high quality meat production and animal welfare standards, with delayed slaughter time and flexibility in its feed ratio, and a price that reflects that approach,” said Bittner.
Meanwhile, Naturafarm in Switzerland, which supplies the retailer Coop with eggs, is also feeding its hens Danube Soya and its poultry production was converted to that meal also nearly two years ago. Micarna, a group supplying poultry to another Swiss retailer, Migros, also modified their production to include the GM free soymeal in rations.
Danube Soy region
Soybean production in the Danube Soya GM free cultivation region is set to grow 1.8% to 1.9m hectares, and output is forecast 17.1% higher to 4.3m MT this year, according to the association.
Danube Soy comes from farmers in Hungary, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia and Austria and smaller quantities from other countries within the Danube Soya region.
And mills are located in Hungary, Italy, Serbia, Switzerland and Austria and Germany, where ADM’s non-GM soy crushing facility went live in June this year. So the aggregate capacity of Danube Soya certified crushers exceeds 750,000 tons, confirmed the association.
Some observers question the rationale of cultivating soy in Europe, saying such crops grow better closer to the Equator. But Bittner disagrees: “Austria saw up to five tons per hectare in yields this year. It is a matter of research, particular on seed variety. While not so suited to the conditions in the UK or the Netherlands, we are seeing great results in the Danube Soya growing regions."
Bittner stressed that farm sizes will always be much smaller in Europe than in Brazil or Argentina, but that Danube Soya is about ensuing certified non GM soy based on high standards and quality. “The association’s goal is to maintain those standards rigidly as the program expands,” she added.