Moving towards a net-zero carbon feed and food industry

Nick Major, the new Chair of The Global Feed LCA Institute (GFLI). Photo: ForFarmers
Nick Major, the new Chair of The Global Feed LCA Institute (GFLI). Photo: ForFarmers

All About Feed caught up with Nick Major − the new Chair of The Global Feed LCA Institute (GFLI) about the role of the feed industry in reducing the carbon footprint of animal production.

The Global Feed LCA Institute (GFLI), which is an initiative of the feed industry, provides a global reference database of emissions of feed materials. With the publicly available Animal Nutrition Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) database and tool, the organisation is working towards a more sustainable, low-carbon animal production system. At the beginning of this year, ForFarmers’ Corporate Affairs Director Nick Major was elected as the new chair of GLFI.

Congratulations on your election as the new chair of GFLI. What will you be focusing on as the new Chair?

Thank you! My main focus along with the GFLI Board and team is to raise awareness of GFLI and in particular with 2 main groups:

  • Firstly users of the data, whether they be feed producers or supply chain partners.
  • The second is to encourage the many companies and organisations that either have or are working on emissions data for the feed materials they supply. The more feed materials we have in the GFLI database the more we can claim it to be the standard set of emissions data.

I suppose the other priority is to encourage new members to join GFLI to contribute to developing this important initiative.

How does GLFI help the feed industry to achieve more sustainable, low-carbon animal protein production?

The role of GFLI is to provide the industry with validated emissions data for the feed materials they use. If you look at the carbon footprint of 1 tonne of feed delivered to the farm gate, a significant proportion of the emissions come from cultivation, harvesting and processing. These have much greater impact than feed production and transport. It is for the feed industry to provide innovative solutions to their farmer customers to reduce the carbon footprint of animal production, but by using GFLI the whole industry can rely on a standard set of values.

When looking at the footprint of any material you also need to think about the performance of the feed on farm.

Is there an increasing need to monitor emissions from feed?

We see increasing interest and pressure from supply chain partners such as retailers and processors but also from policy makers. Livestock production has to play its role in the transition to net-zero carbon objectives. Feed represents on average something like 45% of the carbon footprint of livestock production according to the FAO. It’s slightly higher in pigs and poultry and slightly less in ruminants. With that comes both the responsibility but also the means by which the feed industry can and will contribute to more sustainable animal production.

Last year, GLFI launched their database consisting of the LCA of feed ingredients. Does this database cover all of the market? What is still missing?

GFLI already has emissions data on 962 feed materials (not only CO) with 3 different allocation methods so it is already quite comprehensive. There are a number of materials we will want to focus on. Firstly more regional information, secondly minerals, micro-ingredients and feed additives and finally the co-products that are commonly fed on farm. Ultimately the objective is to ensure that 100% of the materials used in a feed formulation are available in GFLI.

Which are the feed ingredients with the most impact and where can improvements best be made?

That’s a good question but the answer depends on how you measure it. Which impact category do you want to focus on? Do you include or exclude the impact of changes in land use? I need to make another important point here. When looking at the footprint of any material you also need to think about the performance of the feed on farm. In other words, there is no point reducing the carbon footprint of a compound feed if it negatively affects animal performance and health. You need to look at the carbon footprint of the whole production chain and then optimise for the best results.

There is such a focus on the environmental impact of livestock production that I see no choice but for the feed industry to play its part.

Is there interest from the feed industry to reduce the carbon footprint of feed?

I see increasing interest from the feed industry. We all have a responsibility to look at the environmental impact of what we do. In the feed industry, while we can do a lot by reducing our own emissions in manufacturing and transport, the real impact is in the feed materials, often referred to as Scope 3 emissions. There is such a focus on the environmental impact of livestock production that I see no choice but for the feed industry to play its part. In our own operations, in the feed materials we use and in the advice we provide to livestock producers.

What is needed to actually start reducing the emissions of feed production?

There are 2 key requirements. An agreed methodology – how do you calculate the emissions of 1 tonne of feed delivered to the farm? In Europe, this is set out in a PEFCR (Product Environmental Category Rules). This explains what data you need, such as the formulation and the energy quantity and type used for manufacturing and transport. Then of course there is the GFLI data on the emissions from feed materials (to which you need to add transport of the feed material to the feed mill). These can then be used to calculate the emissions per tonne. There are other dimensions to sustainability such as responsible sourcing of feed materials, the use of feed materials which are not consumed by humans and the efficiency with which the feed is used on farm.

ForFarmers has become a member of GLFI. In what way are they going to contribute to reducing emissions from feed?

ForFarmers has been involved with GFLI right from the start, first as a member for the original consortium which worked to set it up and now as one of the first companies to join as a member now that GFLI has been set up as a nonprofit legal entity. ForFarmers uses GFLI to calculate the carbon footprint of all of the feeds it produces in the 5 countries in which they operate and is increasingly providing this information to its farmer customers. In addition, ForFarmers has set an number of what I think are quite ambitious objectives for 2030, including reducing the carbon footprint of its own operations (per tonne of feed) by 75% compared to 2015 and cutting CO emissions from feed materials by 30%.

What will be the main activities of GLFI in the years ahead?

To recruit more members to help shape GFLI for the future, to attract new data from providers and to position GFLI as the standard reference for anyone who needs environmental data related to feed materials as a contribution to a net-zero carbon feed and food industry.

Ploegmakers
Marieke Ploegmakers Editor: All About Feed
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