Will Animal Protein Still Be on the Menu in 2050?

Top sustainability challenges for the livestock value chain
Alternative Animal Proteins
Publ. date 7 May 2018
The world population is projected to rise to 9 billion people in 2050. In order to be able to feed the world by then, food production will need to increase intensely. However, this intensification needs to be carefully balanced since environmental impacts are major. The livestock sector in particular is under scrutiny, since it is the world’s largest user of natural resources with 80% of all agricultural land accounts for grazing or animal feed production, and 8% for global water use. With the introduction of different future scenarios to fulfil future protein need such as alternative diets, insects as a protein source and stem cell grown meat, the livestock value chain has to get serious about its sustainability approach.

Our research of top materialities in the European animal feed industry shows that the level of sustainability maturity in the sector is still in an early stage, with companies tending to focus on risks and not so much on opportunities. Typically, large multinationals at the end of the value chain are driving the increase of sustainability performance. Often the result of the urgency created by their key stakeholders such as consumers, NGOs, and investors. 

The dual challenge of producing larger quantities of high quality and affordable meat, milk, and eggs is to respond to the growing global demand through production systems that are sustainable on the environmental, social and economic level. Trust and confidence in the safety of the whole food supply chain is vital and therefore high standards of health and welfare for animals and people are set. 

Top 5 materialities for the animal feed sector:

  1. Responsible & healthy value chain including the use of antibiotics 
  2. Food safety & quality
  3. Operational eco-efficiency
  4. Resource efficiency
  5. Waste management including the valorization of food waste

Source: Finch & Beak research, 2017

With the meat scandals with horse meat in Europe, and tainted meat scandal in Brazil still fresh in memory, the materiality “Responsible & healthy value chain” is a clear top issue in the industry. This addresses not only animal welfare but also includes the role of antibiotics in the value chain. 

Antibiotics: turning a risk into an opportunity 

Although the primary business of compound feed manufacturers is to produce standard compound feed for healthy animals meeting their nutritional requirements, upon the prescription of veterinarians, they are requested to blend in veterinary medicinal products into the feed. The feed sector is subject to growing controversial discussions around the (over)use of antibiotics which may lead to the local bacterial populations developing antimicrobial resistance, impacting for both human and animal health. In the animal production in some regions of the world antibiotics are applied as antimicrobial growth promoters to improve the quality of the meat, with a lower percentage of fat and higher levels of protein. An EU-wide ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed has already been implemented in 2006.

Case: Shareholders urge McDonald’s to phase out antibiotics

In 2017, shareholders filed a resolution requesting McDonald’s to set global sourcing targets with timelines for pork and beef raised without the non-therapeutic use of medically-important antibiotics. In the resolution, they emphasized that given growing health concerns, changing consumer preferences and industry trends, shareholders would benefit from more detailed plans that would set the company on a course to phase out the non-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics in meat production.

Only a few months after the resolution had been filed, McDonald’s committed to reducing the use of high-value human antibiotics in its global chicken supply by 2018, and said to be working on antibiotic plans for other meats, dairy cows, and laying hens (refer to Robeco article in the download section). 

Case: Partnering for innovation

In 2016 Adisseo and Novozymes, two global leaders in the animal nutrition and feed additive industry, developed and market a probiotic for poultry. Probiotics are naturally occurring live microbes that stabilize the gut flora of poultry, pigs, and other animals when ingested. They can improve animal health, growth rate, and feed utilization, thereby saving resources and improving the sustainability of the animal farming industry. 

Adisseo and Novozymes estimate the probiotics market at EUR 200-300 million and 8-10 percent annual growth. The partners strive to become key players in probiotics for animals and accelerate the expansion of this fast-growing market.

Both the McDonald’s and Novozymes/Adisseo examples show that looking at materialities provide players in the livestock value chain business opportunities in the shape of product innovation and market penetration adjusting to customer demands.

Interested in developing a materiality matrix that is looking at business opportunities?

Finch & Beak’s Re-Fresh Materiality Assessment is grounded in an agile business design approach, the basic concept is to conduct a thorough assessment of sustainability topics using a big data approach, with a minimum of effort. 

If you want to discover the benefits of integrating big data in the process of your materiality assessment, please contact us at hello@finchandbeak.com for more information.

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