Cargill: sustainable feed, fish production worth the higher price tag for US consumers

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/sezer66
© iStock/sezer66

Related tags Sustainability

A customer survey highlights the role for sustainable feed and fish production in the US marketplace, says Cargill Aqua Nutrition manager.

The Minnesota-based agro-giant released information from its Feed4Thought survey on Wednesday. The survey was offered to consumers in June and included more than 1,000 participants.

The goal of the survey was to better understand consumers’ perceptions and opinions regarding topics that may influence the animal protein supply chain, said Dave Robb, group sustainability manager with Cargill Aqua Nutrition.

“Because consumers are adding more seafood to their lunch and dinner plates, we wanted to take a deeper dive into what motivates their purchase decisions to see how Cargill can fill any potential gaps or call attention to our current work in this space,”​ he told FeedNavigator.

Overall survey results reported that about 72% of consumers consider seafood “important to their health and nutrition,”​ the company said.

A majority of respondents focused on how their seafood was produced, said Cargill. And 70% said both where and how their seafood is sourced influences their decision to buy it.

About 88% of respondents said they would pay more for seafood that was certified for being sustainable and responsibly sourced, the company said. Breaking results down by demographic groups, 93% of younger shoppers said they would pay more for seafood products of that nature.

When giving the survey, the company did not define sustainability or responsibly sourced for participants, said Robb.

Sustainability in feed production

The company has set internal areas or “pillars”​ that pertain to sustainability and recently revamped its raw material sourcing policy for its EWOS Brand, which produces aqua feed, said Robb. The four pillars are land use, water, climate change and farmer livelihoods.

“We’ve also developed the Cargill Animal Nutrition Supplier Code of Conduct, which will be introduced to all of our raw material suppliers in 2017​,”he said. “This lets suppliers know what our expectations are of them, with respect to environmental and social impacts in our supply chains.”    ​ 

One practice that is a part of the responsible source effort is sourcing soy feed ingredients from supply chains that have been audited to standards benchmarked by FEFAC, said Robb. Another is to use palm oil products from supply chains audited to standards like those put forward by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) or its equivalent.

“Our main focus over the last years has been the sourcing of certified sustainable marine ingredients,” ​he said. “Working with our suppliers, we have seen great improvements in this sector, demonstrating how well forage fisheries are managed and fished in general.”

Aqua feed’s role in responsible production

Cargill Aqua Nutrition produces aqua feed for species including salmon, tilapia and shrimp and has 38 aquaculture feed facilities along with three aquaculture innovation centers, the company said. It generated 1.74m tons of aqua feed in 2016.

The acquisition of EWOS​ in 2015 doubled the company’s production of aqua feed, said Robb.

“We are now looking to further expand in warm water aquaculture where the greatest market growth is happening,” ​he said. “Aquaculture is the fastest growing mainstream food production system, as it is highly efficient and does not compete with traditional land-based agriculture for space or resources.”

Growth outlook is high for the sector as interest in seafood increases, he said. “But there will be strong expectations for sustainable growth as well,” ​he added.

Cargill has focused on providing aqua feed that meets the requirements of several industry certifications, the company said. It has facilities in multiple countries that have earned certifications for either Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) or GLOBAL Good Aquaculture Practice (GAP) – and a few facilities that meet standards for both.

The company also can supply feed that meets requirements set by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), it said.   

“Because consumers are more concerned about where their food comes from, earning these third-party certifications gives them the assurance that the products they’re consuming truly live up to the expected high standards of food safety and sustainability,”​ said Robb. The company has been involved with multiple certifications because each may have relevance in a different market and some cover differing topics, he added.

“We have worked with ASC on development of the species standards in the past and have been heavily involved in the current development of their feed standards, which they hope to launch later this year,”​ he said.  The goal is to offer feed that allows customers produce fish to any of the certification standards, he added.  

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