The chicken producer, Gårdsand, said the motivation behind this development is its increasing concern about being associated with soy from Brazil, which is claims is linked to deforestation.
“We find the risk of including this commodity in our supply chain to be so high that we’ve excluded soy entirely, and shifted to other protein sources,” said May Iren Varlid Aarvold, marketing lead, Gårdsand.
The new feed formulation was developed by Norwegian feed manufacturer, Vestfoldmøllene. It relies on the use of mainly locally produced protein sources such as field beans, fodder wheat, barley, and rapeseed.
Branded as Lerstang, the soy-free poultry products will be available in Norway’s Meny supermarkets this week. Gårdsand said the chicken will be labelled “produced without soy – for the sake of tropical forests” to meet Norwegian consumer demand for deforestation-free and sustainably produced products.
“Replacing soybean meal (SBM) is, as expected, not possible with one single feed ingredient, so we actually have a number of ingredients that we are playing around with.
“The Norwegian climate is not very favorable to growing protein rich plants; that said, we do grow a limited amount of legumes like rapeseeds and faba beans, and they are, of course, essential ingredients in our soy free feed. Local varieties are being used. On top of that, we found it necessary and useful to use two other European sourced feed ingredients.”
Formulating broilers feeds with the correct amino acid profile is not easy without using SBM, said the feed manufacturer.
“The feed certainly tends to become more expensive, but, in close cooperation with Gårdsand, we tested different feed solutions in the field under close monitoring.
“Our nutritionist was also somewhat concerned about the level of antinutritional factors (ANFs) in the ‘new’ feed ingredients. The use of multiple ingredients spreads the risk in terms of that challenge. Our more typically used ingredients would not be free of ANFs either.
"So far, we have seen some variation between flocks when it comes to feed uptake, animal behavior, daily growth and FCR.”
Vestfoldmøllene will now work to further improve the soy free broiler feed formulation.
"There is a lot of interest in alternatives to soy in Norway now, and different solutions are emerging. The limited supply in alternatives is probably the biggest challenge at the moment, but, over time, we expect to see that changing."
Pressure on soy suppliers to salmon sector
This move by Gårdsand follows similar action by other animal protein companies that source Brazilian soy. Last year, leading Norwegian salmon producer, Bremnes Seashore, opted out of buying Brazilian soy, citing similar concerns to Gårdsand. It said it would pivot to sourcing soy from the European market only.
And, in January this year, Brazil based soy suppliers to the international salmon industry announced they would implement a 100% deforestation and conversion free soybean value chain with August 2020 as their cut-off date. No soy grown on land deforested after this deadline will be traded.
The soy suppliers involved - CJ Selecta, Caramuru and Imcopa/Cervejaria Petrópoli - together with the sustainability standard owner, ProTerra, and WWF Brazil, agreed on a robust monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system to implement and enforce their commitment to zero deforestation.
Their decision would have immediate effect on all new contracts of soy purchased.
The commitment by those Brazilian suppliers was hailed by global environmental organizations, international retailers, salmon farmers, feed companies, salmon processors and investors, all who cited concern about the increasing deforestation and conversion rates in Brazil.
However, Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) noted that the soy supplier to the Norwegian agriculture sector, Amaggi, has not made a similar pledge. “Although all soy supplies to the Norwegian market are ProTerra certified, certification is proven insufficient to eliminate deforestation. An increasing trend globally is to argue that suppliers must be fully deforestation-free in all their operations, not only providing certified commodities to concerned customers. RFN argues that soy consuming companies must only use soy suppliers that stop trading with deforestation soy and commit to the 2020 cut-off date. As long as the Brazilian soy supplier to the Norwegian poultry sector, Amaggi, refuses to commit to this cut-off date, RFN welcomes the steps taken by Gårdsand to reduce the company’s deforestation risk.”
Ida Breckan Claudi, senior advisor, RFN, said Gårdsand’s new soy-free feed sends a clear message to the soy traders like Cargill, Bunge and Amaggi, that their current business model is incompatible with companies’ sustainability ambitions: “Unless the industry leaders establish instruments to protect what remains of Brazil’s native forests from soy expansion, they will continue to lose market share, due to the deforestation risk.”