Europe’s animal feed sector looks to harness potential

In June, two of the animal feed organizations in the European Union came together to host a high-level conference in Brussels.

Cattle Eating 1000

In June, two of the animal feed organizations in the European Union came together to host a high-level conference in Brussels.

Attended by 170 delegates representing the European Commission, feed industry, academia and the farming and banking sectors, the meeting was titled “Innovation in Animal Nutrition,” and the program covered a broad range of topics, including antibiotic resistance and how to improve the competitiveness of the EU livestock sector.

Organizers of the meeting were FEFAC (European Compound Feed Manufacturers’ Federation) and FEFANA (EU Association of Specialty Feed Ingredients and their Mixtures), who presented to the meeting their joint vision of a modern feed industry in Europe.

Their vision document – titled “Time to Shift Gears” – outlined the feed industry’s solutions to meet current and future challenges to the EU livestock sector.

FEFAC President Ruud Tijssens stressed the role of animal nutrition in the food chain circular economy.

“It is thanks to animal nutrition science that the feed industry is able to annually convert 90 million metric tons of co-products into high-value feed ingredients for food-producing animals,” said Tijssens. “Innovation in the area of alternative feeds as well as feed processing technology make it possible to continuously reduce the feed industry’s environmental footprint.”

Highlighting the huge potential of the feed sector to improve the efficiency of the European livestock sector, FEFANA President Marco Bruni called for the authorization of new feed additives to be accelerated.

“There is a strong market demand for the products we deliver, but we often find ourselves caught in a slowly operating regulatory approval process,” said Bruni. “The feed industry vision is therefore also a call on policy-makers and risk assessors to streamline the process. Furthermore, investment in scientific research in animal nutrition and in innovation, as well as more stakeholder dialogue, are prerequisites to making the vision happen.”

Feed industry contribution to shaping the future

FEFANA and FEFAC’s joint vision presents the ways in which the organizations see the EU feed industry helping to shape the future on the European livestock sector in terms of feed safety, animal nutrition and sustainability.

In general terms, they aim to establish closer links with suppliers to optimize the safety, sustainability and nutritional value of feed ingredients, and to increase the use of co-products from other industries and former foodstuffs. Animal production sustainability parameters will gradually be incorporated into feed formulations, and customized feeding strategies will be developed to take more account of the variations in feed ingredients and farming systems.

Feed safety management requires sharing responsibility along the food chain, according to FEFAC and FEFANA. Important here are to build capacity based on knowledge gained about feed safety risks and technology to manage those risks, with the aim to detect any contamination as early as possible in the supply chain. Exchanging information between the control authorities and the feed industry is key to establishing and maintaining the most efficient and cost-effective control systems.

On animal nutrition, the vision document sets out the target to improve the nutritional profile for safe and high-quality animal products for consumers, and to identify feeding strategies that best meet the animals’ well-being. Particular mention is given to reducing the need for antibiotics at farm level, which can be achieved by advancing understanding of the impact of feed processing and composition on gut health, and identifying specific micro-ingredients that can contribute to that end.

Development of a harmonized method of defining environmental footprint is highlighted in the section on sustainability. This, according to the vision, should be based on life cycle analysis and involve the whole chain. The organizations also aim to develop metrics that can measure a wider range of resource efficiency indicators.

Finally, on feed ingredient sourcing, FEFAC and FEFANA see their future in using feed ingredients more efficiently to reduce environmental footprints, while securing the supply of feed ingredients in the long term and to encourage the adoption of responsibly sourced feed ingredients in the mainstream market.

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