The economic and ecological interests have almost a 100% overlap in the animal feed industry.
Improving feed efficiency was always ForFarmers’ objective, long before sustainability became fashionable in society. Stijn Steendijk, our Strategy & Organisation Director, explains which innovations help in this process.
Which steps has ForFarmers taken which will benefit animal welfare?
“Let me take the poultry sector as an example. Everyone is now familiar with the slow growing chicken as an alternative to the broiler chicken. We have developed special feed for this new way of keeping chickens. We are also doing trials with live insects as chicken feed. Insects are very rich in protein, which will allow us to realise cost savings in relation to the use of soy. Insects also encourage the natural free ranging behaviour and, from an environmental point of view, you won’t be using any agricultural land or factory to produce the feed. Another innovation of ours is in response to the upcoming ban on beak trimming in chickens. The chickens will do more damage to each other when pecking at each other with untreated beaks. We have developed a feed which will make their behaviour less aggressive.”
What are you doing to better protect the environment?
“Virtually all our efforts are focussed on reduced consumption, less pollution and healthier animals. The overlap between economy and sustainability is almost 100% in our industry. The same also applies to our own operations. We have a few relatively large factories which we are constantly improving, which means we are dealing with energy a great deal more efficiently than we would be if we had a large number of small factories. We do our utmost to ensure our trucks don’t drive around empty and will always try to combine collections and deliveries.”
And how does your feed contribute to improved sustainability?
“We are constantly refining our choice of raw materials in order to reduce the impact on the environment, for example through the use of responsible soy and residual flows from the feed industry. We also naturally work on constantly improving the feed efficiency and animal health, in order to help improve our customers’ production. We aim for optimal levels of nitrogen and phosphate in our animal fed too, as everything an animal doesn’t need will end up in the fertiliser. We have also reduced the zinc and copper levels to below the legal standard. We invest in the continuous improvement of our customers’ fertiliser processing via a fertiliser investment fund. This allows us to offer them solutions literally at the start and end of the process, which is our contribution to the circular economy.
We are constantly raising the bar for ourselves, even when that means we need to enter into discussions with our customers regarding higher costs. If increased sustainability leads to increased costs, then the consumer will also need to be prepared to contribute to this financially.”
The environment and animal welfare sometimes find themselves in a field of tension...
“That’s right. If your focus is on a low feed conversion and therefore using fewer raw materials, then you may well be focussing less on the animals’ welfare. However, it’s our aim to constantly look for the optimal balance, as both are very important to sustainability.”
What are your expectations in this area for the future?
“Transparency is continuing. People are now more aware of where their food comes from and demand innovations in the food industry. Things are changing due to pressure and that’s a good thing. We have anticipated this. The same thing happened with battery cages, the broiler chicken and the use of antibiotics in feed. New subjects will become relevant every time new knowledge is acquired, which is something we welcome.”
This interview is a translation of the original Dutch text. In case of any difference in interpretation between the translation and the original Dutch text, the latter shall prevail.