With consumers, retailers, investors, and other stakeholders calling for sustainable and affordable meat made with clean and transparent practices, the feed industry has an important supporting role to play.
For dsm-firmenich, this means taking action on multiple fronts: helping to tackle antimicrobial resistance, making more efficient use of natural resources, moving away from a reliance on marine resources, reducing emissions from livestock, improving the lifetime performance of animals, and reducing waste while improving the quality of food.
When it comes to the swine industry, the company proposes a vast array of feed additive solutions which can help support these objectives, as well as a service offering which makes it possible for producers to get individualized overviews of their own operations’ environmental footprint and understand how it can be improved in an economically sustainable way.
Today, we hear from Dr. Maria Walsh, head of swine marketing, about how dsm-firmenich’s product portfolio, together with its Sustell™ technology platform, can help the swine industry improve on sustainable raw materials, emissions control, and cost savings.
[Feedinfo] What strategies are available to producers interested in reducing the environmental footprint of swine feed? What role does dsm-firmenich see itself playing in that transition?
[Dr. Maria Walsh] Swine feed accounts for approximately 60% of pork’s carbon footprint, with major contributions coming from conventional cereal and oilseed ingredients. But of course, every farm is different, and you can only manage what you measure—which is why we support producers with Sustell™ our intelligent sustainability service, to accurately measure and reduce their own environmental footprint based on an ISO-approved full life cycle assessment methodology.
Strategies to reduce carbon emissions include 1) diversifying protein sources by relying less on soybean meal and feeding alternative oilseed meals, 2) incorporating novel feed proteins such as single cell proteins or insect meal, 3) lowering crude protein levels through synthetic amino acids, and 4) utilizing more non-human food raw materials (e.g., by-products) to enhance feed sustainability and minimize competition for land between food and feed. However, each of these can have different consequences in terms of digestibility, the presence of antinutritional factors and subsequent effects on performance.
Drawing from our wide portfolio of innovative nutrition solutions, we’re able to help our clients design and implement feeding strategies that improve the profitability and environmental footprint of their operations.
[Feedinfo] Indeed, increasing the use of alternative raw materials is not simple: there are challenges to navigate including digestibility, inacceptable levels of ANFs, and added costs. Can you talk about the importance of solutions such as feed enzymes, mycotoxin testing, or organic acids in such diets (or in improving the sustainability of swine production overall)?
[Dr. Maria Walsh] Feed enzymes, such as phytases and carbohydrases, can break down complex carbohydrates and improve the digestibility of feed ingredients. This is particularly important when using alternative raw materials, which may contain less readily digestible components. Improved digestibility results in better nutrient utilization and more efficient feed conversion, reducing waste and environmental impact.
Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins produced by molds that can contaminate feed ingredients. These toxins can negatively impact pig health and performance. Mycotoxin risk management mitigates the negative effects of harmful mycotoxins, which is essential for the overall health and well-being of swine. Healthy pigs are more efficient in converting feed into meat, reducing resource wastage.
Ultra-pure (99.9%), high-quality benzoic acid has been shown to regulate gastrointestinal functionality, leading to notable improvements in pig performance, including 5%+ increase in average daily gain. Its potent antimicrobial activity and unique metabolism producing hippuric acid contribute to urine acidification, reducing UTIs in sows and ammonia volatilization—effectively reducing ammonia emissions by 20% on average.
[Feedinfo] Beyond your product portfolio, in recent years, dsm-firmenich has also invested heavily in providing a service offering which supports the sustainability transformation it would like to see, including your Sustell™ service. Can you start by talking a bit about who within the value chain Sustell™ is aimed at?
[Dr. Maria Walsh] Sustell™ is aimed at the entire animal protein value chain, from feed producers to farmers to processors to retailers. We believe that sustainability is a shared responsibility and opportunity for all stakeholders in the industry. Sustell™ can benefit any size of operation, from small-scale farms to large-scale integrators, as it provides customized solutions based on farm-level data and expert knowledge.
[Feedinfo] There are two pillars of Sustell: the intelligence platform and the expert center. Let’s start with the intelligence platform: what is it? What does it provide that was not otherwise available to the market?
[Dr. Maria Walsh] The intelligence platform of Sustell™ is a state-of-the-art tool that utilizes farm-level data to calculate the environmental impact of animal protein production in 19 different categories, such as climate change, water scarcity, land use, and biodiversity. It also provides scenario analysis and intervention modeling to identify the best practices and solutions to reduce the environmental footprint and increase the profitability of animal protein production. The intelligence platform of Sustell™ provides accurate, transparent, and comparable results that are compliant with internationally recognized standards and methodologies, such as FAO LEAP, PEFCR, IPCC, and ISO 14040/44. It also covers the 17 largest agricultural producing countries in the world, where the animal production systems can be defined in detail thanks to country-specific data. The intelligence platform of Sustell™ provides a service that was not otherwise available to the market, as it combines the most advanced environmental footprint calculation tool with practical and actionable solutions that are tailored to each farm and system.
[Feedinfo] Next, on the expert center: this reunites leading consultants from dsm-firmenich, Blonk, and other third parties. Can you give an example of what each of those parties might provide to a client in the context of Sustell™?
[Dr. Maria Walsh] Sustell™'s Expert Center comprises seasoned consultants from dsm-firmenich, Blonk, and other experts with profound knowledge in life cycle analysis, animal nutrition, and sustainability. They collaborate with animal protein producers to evaluate their environmental footprint using the intelligence platform and offer guidance to enhance sustainability and profitability. The Expert Center supports solution implementation, monitors progress, and provides training and communication materials for showcasing sustainability achievements. Services range from dsm-firmenich's nutrition solutions for animal health, cost reduction, and lower emissions to Blonk's methodological support and data quality assurance. Third-party consultants bring insights into specific areas like animal welfare, biodiversity, and the circular economy.
[Feedinfo] How long has Sustell™ been on offer? What kind of feedback have existing clients given about the value it has provided?
[Dr. Maria Walsh] Sustell™ was launched in May 2021, and since then, we have received positive feedback from our existing clients, who have appreciated the value of Sustell™ in providing accurate, simple, and actionable farm-level solutions to improve their environmental footprint and profitability. We’ve had good feedback on the usability and rigor that the tool offers, along with tangible improvements in sustainability.
[Feedinfo] Going forward, where do you expect dsm-firmenich’s efforts to improve the sustainability of the swine industry to be concentrated?
[Dr. Maria Walsh] There are multiple fronts where exciting innovation is occurring that promises to improve the profitability and sustainability of swine production. Better use of data and machine learning can inform ‘early-warning systems’ that signal health or nutrition issues before they arise, allowing time for early intervention that improves efficiency. Insights into the gut microbiome continue to offer new potential strategies to improve health, performance and welfare. Another area of focus is the development of novel feed additives that can reduce the environmental impact of swine production, such as lowering ammonia emissions and improving manure quality. dsm-firmenich is also exploring the potential of alternative protein sources for piglet diets to support a more resilient and sustainable industry.
Published in association with dsm-firmenich