Feed Bites

Possibilities Abound for Reducing Environmental Footprint Through Feed

Written by: Victoria Broehm   |   February 28, 2022

Environmental footprint, Ingredients

When it comes to reducing enteric methane emissions in ruminant livestock, there is a “robust body of knowledge waiting to be implemented” on U.S. farms, but challenges getting these novel ingredients approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use continue to stymie progress. That was the take-home message the American Feed Industry Association’s Paul Davis, Ph.D., delivered at last week’s U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Davis discussed that emerging technologies, such as feed ingredients including seaweed and/or other components that could help curb enteric emissions in beef and dairy cattle, are being researched around the world. And some, such as DSM’s Bovaer, which the European Union approved last week, are moving full-steam ahead, while the U.S. lags behind in gaining approvals.

Part of the problem, Davis explained, is that novel feed ingredients in the U.S. cannot include environmental claims on their labels due to the FDA’s very narrow interpretation for what is considered a “food” vs. a “drug,” leading these ingredients to go through the lengthy drug approval process, which is much longer than the average three-to-five years feed ingredients typically undergo for approval in animal diets.

“The next generation of methane-reducing ingredients have decreased rate of adoption and use in an arena where we could see more adoption and use,” Davis said. “We need FDA’s help and expediency in expanding label claims and getting those ingredients approved.”

Only with those technologies in the marketplace will we be able to reach peak efficiency in animal agriculture production and make meaningful reductions in emissions that U.S. policymakers are looking for.

For now, the industry is doing what it can to select and include feed ingredients in diets that can reduce environmental impacts in other ways, such as: using coproducts leftover from food and energy production to divert materials from landfills; increasing the bioavailability of ingredients; and selecting commodity ingredients based on their specific nutrient content for specific purposes. The industry is also working to understand how it can better process and formulate ingredients, adjust feeding systems and work with farmers and ranchers on improving basic animal husbandry, which could lead to more optimal uptake of nutrients and less environmental impact.

As the industry quantifies and compares emissions over feed ingredients’ life cycles, they are also adding that data to a free global database – the Global Feed LCA Institute’s Animal Nutrition Life Cycle Analysis database – for farmers and ranchers to use to benchmark and reduce their environmental impact. This will help the industry better understand its footprint from crop to mill to farm to animal to food.

“Just like the old adage that ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ I think ‘it will take an industry’,” Davis said, to help reduce environmental impacts in the future.

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