No competition between animal feed and human consumption

No competition between animal feed and human consumption

Feed intended for farmed animals is mainly composed of a mixture which mainly includes cereals (maize, wheat, barley), legumes (such as soybeans), vitamins and trace elements according to a diet that is established on the basis of the needs related to the type of farming and its productive specialization.

In Italy there are farms that produce their own feed, which are part of integrated supply chains. This practice, which is an undeniable asset for breeding farms, is mostly used for cattle rearing and enables farmers to adapt their agricultural production to specific nutritional breeding strategies, and provides them with strong control capabilities and good agricultural practices, including “precision farming” techniques that can positively affect the overall sustainability of their agricultural production.

In the case of pig and poultry livestock production, the correlation between self-production of raw materials and livestock production is less strict. In these cases, integrated supply chains, that comprise farms and feed mills, are developed in order to be able to specialize feed production to the specific livestock production typology. Compared to the free market between feed producer and farmer, the integrated supply chain allows more consistent quality of production and, above all, a greater ability to control, both food safety and sustainability aspects.

The vegetable raw materials used for processing animal feed are generally purchased from foreign and domestic markets. Depending on the type of agricultural raw material, there is a variable degree of self-sufficiency in domestic production.

For example, Italy is not self-sufficient in soya beans and must obtain them from soya-producing countries such as some South American nations. In this case community legislation provides a comprehensive system of safety laws regarding health and traceability along the entire the food supply chain. It is important to note that from a safety perspective feed is treated in the same way as food for human consumption and must therefore comply with the same regulations.

Although it is more complex to implement projects for improving sustainability in the context of international trade, it is important to note that voluntary sustainability and certification systems are available even in the case of agricultural commodities for global markets. An example of this is represented by the production and certification systems of sustainable soya, the most important of which is the RTRS – Round Table on Responsible Soy.

In order to reduce our dependence on vegetable productions from other continents, the EU promotes and supports the use of waste and by-products from food chains for raising livestock according to the principles of circular economy. There are in fact numerous on-going avenues of research aimed at broadening the technologies required and the portfolio of animal feed made from food waste.

The diet of the animals has always been supplemented with waste or by-products obtained from the various stages of the industrial food, processing of foodstuffs such as fruit and vegetables that cannot be put on sale, the by-products obtained from cereal milling, not in compliance pasta and bakery products, and milk, beer and tomato residues.

The environmental advantage for using these materials is twofold: it reduces dependence on foreign raw materials for producing feed as well as the agricultural land required for growing feed which can be used for producing food for human consumption and eliminates the problem of waste disposal; it is furthermore the use of food residues to be allocated to livestock is in fact an efficient way to transform human“waste” in feed for livestock.


The Sustainable Meat Project

The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.