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Agriculture has a significant effect on climate and climate change and plays a major role in the global fluxes of greenhouse gases (GHG). It affects the environment in two different ways: through the direct emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), which contribute to global warming, and through land use change that disturbs the surface energy balance.

Purchased animal feedstuffs, comprising feed materials and compound feeds, seem to be the main energy input into livestock production. On pig fattening in Northern Europe, nearly 70% of the total energy input can be attributed to the used concentrates and feed. On farms, fossil energy is consumed in a “direct‟ and an “indirect”. Direct energy use comprises mainly diesel fuel, electricity and natural gas used to produce every kg of ingredients first and feed second. The energy that is used to produce farm inputs such as mineral fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, feeds and machines is indirect energy.

When looking at sustainability, we should not only look at greenhouse gases emission that will affect climate change, but it is important to consider the soil acidification as well, eutrophication, ecotoxicity, land use, resource depletion, human toxicity and ozone depletion. Minerals (in purple in the graph below) especially Zinc Oxide and Copper may represent a small portion of the diet (0.1 to 0.3%), they are a major cause of ecotoxicity.

Soybean meal is the predominant protein source in pig diets in many countries around the world. The global area cultivated with soybeans has expanded from 38 million hectares in 1975 to 91 million hectares in 2005, with the major land increases taking place in Argentina and Brazil. More than 40% of the increased soybean area in Argentina has come from virgin lands, including forests and savannahs, causing losses in biodiversity. Likewise, in Brazil, woodland had to make place for the production of soy leading to a major deforestation. This causes an increasing risk for erosion, degradation of the soil and pollution of water from pesticides use for weed control. Besides, the transportation of the soybean or soybean meal to other countries also causes emissions to the environment. This burden is expected to increase with an increasing production and the need for a more sustainable soy production and consumption rises. One possibility to make the feed industry, specifically the protein flows, more sustainable is the use of alternative protein sources in the European feed. This could be achieved by reducing the import of proteins by replacing them with locally produced components

To the assessment of the life cycle of each ingredient is quite complex as it is involving many processes. It is the responsibility of every supplier to study the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the products they are marketing and provide this information to their customers. This responsibility falls to feed formulators as well as they need to adjust diets to minimize LCA of the feed they are producing.

Nowadays, nutritionists are formulating based on 3 constraints: ingredients prices, nutritional requirements, non-nutritional requirements (toxicity, palatability, etc…). They now need to add a 4th constraint, the Feed LCA. To calculate the LCA of each diet, they need to input into their ingredient matrix a LCA value for each component (by asking the suppliers). Their formulation software will automatically calculate the overall LCA of the diets and will optimize the diet to be sure that it stays below the maximum LCA that the company will claim.

The LCA value of each diet will become a marketing claim. Educated farmers will look for diets with the lowest LCA possible. Feed manufacturers will compete for a reduction of their LCA. As an example, CPF Thailand announced in January of this year that they are launching a program to calculate the LCA of all the feed and food illustrating their plans to communicate in the reduction of their footprint. They claimed that they already reduce their emission by 1.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent

In addition of the marketing dimension, there could be as well economic benefits. In a near future, every company will be allocated a quota of Carbon credit based on the nature and size of their production. The company who will produce less than the quota of CO2 they have been given will have the possibility to sell the difference as CO2 equivalent to the company who needs to exceed their quota. The costs that may be generated by the addition of the LCA constraint in formulation should be largely compensated by the opportunity to resell the carbon credit.

Vietnam recently announced that they will be created a carbon credit stock market where companies can sell excess of carbon credit. Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture has already signed in 2020 an agreement with the World Bank confirming the reduction of CO2 emission by 5 million tons until 2026 to be sold 51 million USD.

Finally, if we look at ecology with longer perspective, we need to understand that without significant changes in the way we are operating, we will soon reach the limit that our planet can support, and feed producers will have to reduce the quantity of pigs and poultry produced per year. LCA optimization strategy may appear today as a burden but we can see it as well in the long run as a way to save our industry…and our planet.


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