policy issues

Feed: Reducing Animal Agriculture's Environmental Footprint

Feed Efficiency
Feed efficiency is one of the most important and often least appreciated contributors to a sustainable animal feed supply and a productive human food supply. It is the ability for poultry, and livestock  to convert the feed they consume into nutrient-dense meat, milk and eggs. By improving feed efficiency, the animal feed industry plays a pivotal role in meeting the nutritional needs of a growing global population while minimizing its environmental impact. There are many ways to improve feed efficiency. Learn more>>

Animal nutrition is a key tool for improving feed efficiency. By formulating balanced diets with the appropriate amounts of nutrients, animal nutritionists ensure animals can achieve their optimal growth and productivity, while using the least amount of feed. This benefits producers by reducing feed costs and minimizes the environmental footprint associated with livestock and poultry production.

Ration innovation is another crucial path for improving feed efficiency. Researchers and nutritionists continually explore new ingredients and formulations that optimize the use of feed resources. For example, they might incorporate feed additives that enhance nutrient absorption or use alternative protein sources, like insect meal or algae-based supplements.

Feeding practices also contribute significantly to feed efficiency. Proper feeding management, including feeding schedules, portion control and monitoring ensures animals receive the right amount of feed at the right time. This reduces wastage and overconsumption, resulting in more efficient nutrient utilization and reduced emissions.

In essence, by prioritizing feed efficiency through animal nutrition, ration innovation and improved feeding practices, the U.S. feed industry helps lower greenhouse gas emissions and minimizes the overall resource usage, including land, water and energy, which are essential for sustainable food production.

Upcycling is a long-used strategy within the U.S. feed industry, which promotes sustainability by making efficient use of resources and thereby reducing waste. Livestock, poultry and fish have the unique ability to consume products that might otherwise be discarded by humans. This practice minimizes waste disposal challenges and contributes to a circular economy in the food and agriculture sector. Examples of upcycled feed ingredients include food waste, meat and bone meal and by-products from various industries. Learn more>>

Food waste, such as discarded fruits and vegetables, can be converted into animal feed, providing a valuable source of nutrients for livestock. Meat and bone meal, derived from the rendering process, allows for the recycling of animal by-products back into the food chain.

In addition, the feed industry makes use of leftovers from other sectors, such as bakery residues, ethanol and biofuels production remnants and oilseed meal.

These co- and by-products are repurposed to create a well-balanced and nutritious diet for animals. By diverting these materials from landfills or incineration, the feed industry reduces environmental burdens and contributes to sustainable agriculture.

In summary, upcycling in the U.S. feed industry is a win-win solution that not only addresses waste reduction but also enhances the efficiency of resource utilization in food production, supporting the broader goals of sustainability.

Methane Reduction
Reducing methane emissions from livestock, particularly ruminants like cattle, is a critical component of sustainability efforts within the U.S. feed industry. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and enteric methane production by ruminant animals is a source of these emissions. Innovative feed ingredients and dietary strategies are being developed and adopted to address this challenge. These innovations aim to decrease the production of methane in the upper digestive tracts of ruminants without compromising their health or productivity. Learn more>>

One approach involves the inclusion of specific feed additives or supplements in the diets of ruminants. These additives influence the microbial population in the animal's stomach, reducing methane production during digestion. Some examples of these additives include fats, tannins algae and specific compounds. 

Furthermore, improvements in feed formulation and precision feeding techniques can optimize the nutrient balance in ruminant diets, reducing the overall production of methane as a byproduct of digestion.

By actively pursuing these methane reduction strategies, the U.S. feed industry contributes to mitigating the environmental impact of livestock production, aligning with global sustainability goals and helping to address the challenges of climate change.

AFIA Taking a Global, Scientific Approach to Sustainability

Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER)
IFEEDER is a 501(c)(3), working to advance understanding and trust in a sustainable animal feed and pet food supply chain through research and education. In collaboration with the AFIA, IFEEDER developed a Sustainability Road Map and Animal Food Industry Sustainability Toolkit with the goal of giving the animal food industry a solid starting point for reducing their environmental impacts to help consumers feel good about where their food comes from. Learn more>> 

International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF)
The AFIA is an active member of, and contributors to, the IFIF. IFIF's mission, aligned with AFIA’s, advocates for a balanced regulatory framework, supporting global fair trade and competitiveness for the feed and livestock sectors. IFIF's collaborations with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) and the Codex Alimentarius (Codex) are instrumental in framing international regulatory standards for the entire food and feed chain and bolstering fair trade. A key part of IFIF’s mission is to continue to support and encourage the sustainable development of animal production. Learn more>>

Global Feed LCA Institute (GFLI)
The AFIA is a board member and technical management committee member of the GFLI. GFLI is establishing a globally accepted framework and database for calculating the life cycle assessment (LCA) for animal feed ingredients. GFLI is a global initiative and includes international partners from Canada, the European Union, Brazil, Norway, the Netherlands and elsewhere. The purpose of the database is to support meaningful environmental assessment of animal nutrition products and stimulate continuous improvement of the environmental performance in the animal nutrition and food industry. Learn more>>

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
The AFIA is using the public-private partnerships initiative within the NRCS to advance feed management strategies and the use of feed additives to reduce the environmental footprint of livestock and poultry. Through additional knowledge and awareness of the benefits of feed management strategies and feed additives, there are opportunities to increase the use of these practices by producers within NRCS’s conservation programs. In collaboration with AFIA, IFEEDER is engaged in work with The Nature Conservancy and Dairy Management Inc. to assess the economic and social aspects for using feed additives on the farm. 

Clarity and Leadership for Environmental Assessment and Research Center (CLEAR Center) 
The CLEAR Center at the University of California-Davis undertakes scientific research to understand and reduce the impact of animal agriculture’s environmental footprint to support improved livestock and poultry operations as well as to inform public and policymaker audiences. Research to understand and improve feed’s impact on the environment is invaluable but communicating it to stakeholders is equally important to ensure stakeholders can hold informed discussion. IFEEDER provides resources to support the CLEAR Center’s ability to communicate results.

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