Greening the animal feed sector: carbon footprint database development

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© istock/ipopba
© istock/ipopba
A project to benchmark the environmental impact of feed, under the Global Feed LCA Institute (GFLI) initiative, is gathering steam.

EU and North American feed industry partners are building a freely accessible global database to register the environmental performance of the main livestock and fish feed ingredients from cultivation through to production through to the livestock farm gate.

The status of the project was discussed at the first GFLI stakeholder meeting in Brussels late last month. 

emissions from feed

'Sustainble animal protein production is the opportunity'​ - GFLI 

Feed production represents 45% of the carbon footprint of livestock products globally, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“It is clear the feed industry has to be proactive on this aspect. We came to the conclusion several years ago that any solution to reduce the carbon footprint of livestock products globally will be connected to feed performance,”​ said Nicolas Martin, policy advisor, at the EU feed manufacturers’ trade group, FEFAC.

The GFLI project builds on the “scientifically robust”​ life cycle analysis (LCA) methodology for feed derived under the Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance​ (LEAP) partnership.

Harmonization of environmental footprint analysis methods strengthens credibility and establishes a level playing field, said Martin.

“We want to enable transparent monitoring of feed ingredients and to demonstrate continuous improvement.

“The idea is to present the tool as a service for the livestock industry, which can be used as a global reference for feed LCA data, comparable and measurable across world regions, that will support meaningful LCAs of livestock and fish products,”​ he said.

gfli data gathering

Three streams

The database project involves three streams: the environmental impact of the use of feed ingredients in Europe, the same in terms of the US and Canada, and the footprint of fish feed ingredients globally.

“The European steering group is slightly ahead of our North American counterparts in data gathering as we were able to capitalize on a similar work we did previously with the European Commission.

“On the fish feed side, we are looking to define the list of ingredients to be assessed, but it will likely involve only marine sourced raw materials as the teams involved in the other streams will have gathered information relative to any plant based ingredients used in fish diets. The whole point of the three streams is to ensure we do not double up on work – we need economy of scale in this project – with all the data collated in the one portal anyway.”

Co-products

spanish maize imports

The assessment of the impact of the environmental performance of co-products is challenging as it is more difficult to get data on ingredients like wheat bran, for example, he said. “However, we have been collaborating with feed industry suppliers to help us with evaluation. Crushers, for instance, can give us a good representation of the co-product manufacturing process. We also check the literature to get the right source of information on a product’s footprint.”

Discussions are currently underway to incorporate data on feed ingredients in additional regions, particularly in Brazil and in China. “Our objective is to have a dynamic tool, allowing us to add regions along the way," ​he told us.

Having carbon footprint data on a broad list of ingredients will give feed formulators a better understanding of how their firms’ products will impact the environment, and, more importantly, how they can lessen that impact, said Martin.

Nevertheless, the industry has been active in addressing environmental concerns related to feed inputs in recent years.

“Through formula manipulation, the addition of newly approved, innovative ingredients and better control of nutrient input, feed manufacturers and their customers are working together more diligently to create a smaller global livestock footprint,” ​Richard Sellers, senior vice president of public policy and education at the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), told FeedNavigator, previously.

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