Poultry Feed Innovation Vital to Reduce Europe’s Reliance on Imported Soy

UK – At the British Pig and Poultry Fair recently, two speakers from trade show partner ABN explained that as retailers focus more and more on responsible and sustainable foods, innovative solutions will be needed in the feed supply chain.
calendar icon 20 May 2016
clock icon 4 minute read

Many retailers already require a certain degree of responsible sourcing for feed products such as soybeans to prevent deforestation, but this is likely to become more stringent in future as retailers compete on environmental credentials. 2020 seems to be the target year for most UK retailers to move to certified sustainable feed sources.

In addition, dependence on imported feed ingredients such as soybeans leaves Europe vulnerable to price volatility and increases the ‘food miles’ of the animal products on consumers’ plates.

ABN speakers Ade Adebiyi and Hugh Burton said the feed supply chain must therefore work to improve certification of responsible sourcing, whilst also reducing reliance on soy.

Mr Burton said the aim is to prevent a situation where the retail requirement for sustainability creates a big price premium in the feed supply chain, by ensuring there are enough responsible growers in place by the time retailers make the transfer.

He described how the European Compound Feed Association (FEFAC) has worked to form a benchmarking system, to make sure all the different certification schemes come up to standard. These standards have 37 essential criteria and additional desirable criteria. Currently there are nine schemes that meet the FEFAC criteria and another five in the pipeline, maintaining diversity and competition between schemes.

Mr Burton said that plans are in place to gradually raise the standards of sustainability schemes in future years. “What that allows us to do is move the industry forward in bite-sized chunks without really increasing the costs,” he said.

Mr Adebiyi discussed other possible solutions to reduce Europe’s over-reliance on soy protein, using innovative research to create more nutritional value from the same ingredients.

One possibility is using concentrated protein sources, made by taking out the non-digestible or undesirable fractions of the soy or other protein source.

“These sort of feed ingredients are becoming more popular, they are more available, and increasingly we are seeing the use of a diverse range of raw materials to produce concentrated protein sources.” This includes more locally available materials such as potatoes, rape, beans, peas or wheat, Mr Adebiyi said.

“By removing the unwanted fraction, or less digestible fraction, you will improve overall gastrointestinal or general health of the animal,” he added.

Looking after the gut is especially important in chicks and piglets, which have immature gastrointestinal tracts, so using concentrated protein could help give them the best start in life. That could help producers reduce antibiotic usage on farm – a key consumer requirement for the future – as well as improving farm results in the increasingly important starter phase.

Another innovation that Mr Adebiyi touched on was phytase superdosing. This involves feeding higher doses of the enzyme to ensure the full breakdown of the anti-nutrient phytate in the gut.

“When you break it down completely, you improve performance,” he said. This includes improvements in feed conversion ratio and sometimes improvements in live weight gain as well.

“We need to make those tiny steps and improve on efficiency… we all need to work together as an industry to continue to drive innovation,” Mr Adebiyi concluded.

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