Research shows huge savings in CO2 emissions using regional soy in European pig feed

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/UrosPoteko
© GettyImages/UrosPoteko

Related tags donau soja Soy pigs Germany Austria

The use of Donau Soja-certified feed sees an elimination of around 40% of CO2-emissions caused by pork meat production, found a study carried by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) in Austria.

The research was commissioned by Donau Soja, a non-profit, independent and member-based organization located in Vienna that seeks the sustainable production of soy in Europe and the development of regional value chains.

Pig production under the Hofglück-pork brand owned by leading German retailer, EDEKA, with pigs fed on soy, in the main, from Italy, produced under the Donau Soja/Europe soya standards, had a carbon footprint of 2.16 kg CO2 per kg of pork, compared to the carbon emitted from standard pork production with soy from either the US or Brazil, deemed to be 3.42 kg CO2 per kg of pork, according to the research findings.

That translates to a reduction of 1.26 CO2 per kg of pork, an emission reduction of 40%, found the report. 

EDEKA is focusing on regional and deforestation-free feed. A large proportion of the feed components in its Hofglück pig feed reportedly comes from the farm's own production or is sourced regionally. Since January 2019, the retailer said pigs under that program have been fed mainly Donau Soja/Europe Soya-certified soy as protein feed.

Donau Soja standard soy accounted for 10% of the feed formulation in the FiBL study.

Donau Soja executive director, Susanne Fromwald, presented the findings of that study at a press conference in the German state of Baden-Württemberg today [August 7], where she was joined by Peter Hauk, minister for rural affairs and consumer protection, and Jürgen Mäder, director of EDEKA Südwest.

This is the first in a series of studies we are carrying out with FiBL. This research confirmed the findings of another study, conducted in 2011 in Austria by the Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI), that replacing soy from overseas with regionally produced soy would result in a reduction of CO2 emissions for 1kg of pork by about 50%. In that earlier report, the ratio of the regional soy used in the feed was higher than in the FiBL study; the higher the percentage of regional soy in the ration, the greater the CO2 emissions savings,”​ Fromwald told FeedNavigator.

For Austrian pork producers, that 2011 study indicated that by using certified Donau Soja/Europe Soya, they could potentially save around 1m tons of CO2 per year, she said.

The transformation of green land or forests into farmland emits great amounts of CO2, argues Donau Soja, and, citing data from the European Soy Monitor, it said only 19% of the EU’s soy volumes come from certified and deforestation-free production.

A further climate benefit of using regionally produced soy lies in transport emissions, said the organization. The share of emissions from ships, trains or trucks to the total carbon footprint is comparatively low – but the emissions can be cut in half still by using soy generated under the Donau Soja/Europe soya standards, it advocates.

land use change donau soja study

Fromwald told us the benefits of using regional soy in European animal protein production are not only being felt in the pork sector. The shift of the Austrian egg production sector to regional soy from the Donau Soja standard is seen by all stakeholders concerned, from farmer to retailer, as a model in terms of climate-friendly agriculture, she said. 

Such a switch to regional soy use realized significant savings in CO2 emissions, she added.

Fromwald cited calculations by Dr Stefan Hörtenhuber, scientist at University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), which she said indicate that Austrian egg production today causes 36% less CO2 emissions compared to the Western European standard model, generating savings of 1kg CO2 emissions per kg egg:

  • Egg production in Austria (including Donau Soja): 1.8 kg CO2 per kg egg
  • Egg production according to Western European standard model (including soy from overseas): 2.8 kg CO2 per kg egg

Soy yields in Europe  

Soy is growing very well in Europe, continued Fromwald, discounting any reports of the crop not being suited to such climates.

“In Italy, for example, the average yield is 3.5 tons per hectare. In Austria, in some regions, we have yields of 4 tons per hectare. The acreage is growing, in the past seven years, the acreage has almost doubled, and there is still a lot of potential.”

Currently, around 650,000 tons of certified Donau Soja and Europe Soya are available on the market, she added.

“However, there is a lot more availability than market uptake, with the amount taken up only around one-third – 200,000 tons – of available volumes.”

Such European certified soy is at a price disadvantage to conventional soy, at around €100 per ton differential, a big difference in price if European retailers want to convert a large volume of their own-brand products to regional soy, she concurs.

Protein partnerships

As a result, the organization is actively involved in promoting what it calls ‘Protein Partnerships’, a European equivalent to the Roundtable for Responsible Soy (RTRS) credit system.

“A lot of companies are thinking about their footprint and compensation [models] and they go for credits, frequently they go for RTRS credits. With the Protein Partnerships, we have created a European equivalent, which means retailers and other stakeholders can pay for the training and certification of farmers, and for the certification of primary collectors. That costs around €3-5 per ton, depending on the country and the amount involved.

“The idea around this is that we increase the volume and the availability of certified Donau Soja/Europe Soya until we reach a tipping point whereby the segregation costs come down and it becomes economically more feasible to really go for the physical flow,”​ she explained.

There is no on-pack label linked to the Protein Partnerships for stakeholders to indicate their involvement in such a credit system as Donau Soja does not want to confuse customers, she said. “The on-pack label that we have is only for the physical product, but there are other modes of communication possible around this.”

Lidl in Germany has already signed up to the initiative.

Related news

Show more

Related product

Animal AgTech San Francisco, March 18-19, 2024

Animal AgTech San Francisco, March 18-19, 2024

Content provided by Animal AgTech Innovation Summit | 15-Aug-2023 | White Paper

Animal AgTech is the go-to meeting place for the meat and dairy supply chain to accelerate action for animal health and environmental stewardship.

Follow us


View more