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5 minutes with George Tice, Executive Director for Public Policy, Elanco Animal Health

28 September 2021, at 4:22pm

Ahead of the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit, October 2021 we got some time with one of the speakers George Tice of Elanco Animal Health.

You have been working within the animal health sector for a long time, what are you most passionate about in the industry? Can you give us a short overview of your role at Elanco, and what you enjoy the most about it?

I’m first and foremost a veterinarian: I love animals and I am the proud owner of a Rhodesian ridgeback, two sheep and four chickens myself. I am passionately interested in farmed animals, all of them – sheep, chickens, pigs, cows and even fish and it has been a privilege for me to work with veterinarians and livestock producers for the last 28 years in Elanco, a company that provides important products to vets and livestock producers - products that really help them look after the animals under their care.

It is that great challenge of feeding a growing, urban, and often very poor population with, milk, meat eggs and fish, and yet being committed to seeking to provide ways of maintaining and improving animal welfare that motivates and drives me. All of us have different roles in that – and I have found my spot.

I am Executive Director for Public Policy in Elanco Europe and International and our team is responsible for encouraging a policy environment that allows and enables our customers, to provide safe, affordable food, as well as improving animal welfare and reducing environmental impact. This means they need to be able to use animal health products that are approved by regulatory authorities, are proven to be safe for humans, animals and the environment, and are effective. So we work with our customers, their associations and other stakeholders to ensure that policy makers both in the food chain and in government understand that the policy environment they put around the use of animal health products in livestock needs to be science- and evidence-based. It should also enable the sustainable production of milk, eggs, fish and meat.

What are your views on the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy? How has this affected public perception of animal protein and how did this affect your role as Executive Director for Public Policy?

Elanco, as part of our trade association AnimalHealthEurope, supports very strongly the European Livestock Voice - a coalition of Associations that represent the livestock industry and community in Europe. This coalition of like-minded partners decided to bring back a balanced debate around a sector that plays such an essential role in Europe’s rich heritage and future, informing the public about the social value of livestock and its contributions to global challenges.

I think the best word that has been coined by the coalition is the word “paradox” and we do need to look squarely into the eyes of the paradox that is represented by the Farm to Fork strategy. Significantly reducing the carbon footprint of livestock production is something we all support, as is promoting the biodiversity of our countryside for us and our children to enjoy, and continuing to lead the world in terms of animal welfare. However, we should recognise and grapple with the paradox – with the commitment to increased organic farming where much technology and innovation may be prohibited on one side and the equally important demand to significantly reduce the carbon footprint. A very simple conundrum is that organically raised broilers have a significantly higher feed conversion ratio than conventional broilers – and feed conversion drives carbon efficiency – so how do we marry the two?

It is a very important debate, and we see an opportunity as the Farm to Fork strategy is policy but NOT regulation; we as a livestock community will need to be very vigilant and aligned as we provide input to regulations that are proposed – and ensure that evidence and science are recognised. There is an opportunity to drive science-based policies also beyond Europe, at global level. Ahead of the U.N. Food Systems Summit and Climate Change Conference (COP26), Elanco convened animal protein industry leaders to request the opportunity to work in partnership with the U.N., elected officials, experts and other key stakeholders to identify and deliver critical solutions in nutrition and climate change that also unlock economic opportunity.

Where is innovation advancing the most with Elanco's One Health approach, and where does innovation need to be accelerated?

The driver of Elanco’s innovation commitment in livestock comes out of our Environmental and Social Governance Commitments which we have made to our investors and our stakeholders. These revolve around 4 pillars we call our Healthy Purpose commitments and these are Healthier Animals, Healthier People, Healthier Planet and Healthier Enterprise – they are really a derivation of the classical definitions of One Health and sustainability.

These commitments include some metrics we must meet. One of them is our “Planet Pledge”, where we promise, by 2030 to remove 21 million tons of emissions from our customers' farms while reducing our own impact on the planet. How are we going to do that? By delivering more products and new innovation and services to more customers – who in turn reduce the carbon footprint of their livestock production systems. This means for example launching an enzyme called Hemicell in swine that breaks down beta mannans (the indigestible fraction of soya bean meal) into calories, or by contributing to a significant improvement in intestinal health in broilers with our products and services – and measuring this with our analytics system HTSi. Another example is our commitment to ruminants with both existing and pipeline products such that rumen fermentation is optimised, and methane production is reduced.

If looking at a crystal ball, where do you see the animal health and animal agtech industry in the next 5-10 years? What major changes do you expect there to have been made?

If we look for the biggest impact, the first question to ask is: Where will consumers be? And I think the balance of wisdom is that the consumption of livestock products will continue and in segments will recover and grow (for example poultry products and fish in Europe, swine, poultry and fish in emerging markets). That is why it is so important that we continue to inform consumers about the science in animal agriculture and drive informed debates, also in the social media world.

Concurrently, there can be no doubt that the mandate and the incentive to reduce the carbon footprint will increase. I am sure that products will emerge that can help farmers make this happen, products whose impact can be measured and therefore potentially monetised, certainly on a global basis. And if the science is real, approvable and reproducible across large populations of animals, then I have no doubt that the funding will flow. I also expect that large new livestock segments will continue to develop. Historically, we have seen the outdoor pig and the barn kept layer, now the slow growing broiler, and several new aquatic species apart from salmon are emerging. These new segments have different types of disease and productivity challenges – and will be a very important opportunity for innovation.

Join George Tice at the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit (October 19-20). Watch his live panel discussion on ‘Striking A Balance Between Sustainability, Welfare and Profitability - A Whole-System Approach’ on October 20 at 1pm CEST.

Sign up now to join the summit and save a further 10% with our discount code: PS10