Circular economy

The vast majority of food and non-food processing operations using raw materials like grains or oilseeds result in the production of more than one product . With the right nutritional knowledge and technological skills, these co-products can be upgraded into high quality animal feed, thus keeping nutrients in food production systems, which otherwise would be lost.

Food-producing farm animals and farmed fish, have the unique capacity of being able to utilise the co-products of arable product processing that are not consumed by people as food or drink, or used to produce biofuels or other industrial products, thus keeping them in the food chain. As a result, the livestock sector makes a vital contribution to the circular economy. In fact, no food system can be considered sustainable without farm animal production, provided the highest value for these co-products. This societal benefit is generally overlooked, or misunderstood, due to the lack of public knowledge on the intrinsic nutritional value of these co-products. The resulting feed materials, such as wheat bran, brewers grains or oilseed meals, are typically derived from a process with the main purpose of providing consumer products, such as beverages, food, biofuels or other industrial applications. They are called co-products as their production is an unavoidable consequence of the manufacturing process, Harnessing co-products supports the sustainability and profitability of the entire food production system, covering the manufacturing of all types of food, whether meat, dairy or vegetable-based food processing systems.

Co-products used in feed are in general considered human inedible feed, due to the high amount of fibres, anti-nutrients or other characteristics that make the feed of non-food grade quality. This means these feed resources are not in direct competition with food consumption, while at the same time making a significant contribution to food security. The FAO has estimated that at global level 86% of livestock feed is not suitable for human consumption. FEFAC further explored the concept of the share of human inedible feed in animal feed production at European compound feed production level, as a key feed sector sustainability criteria. In the 1st FEFAC Feed Sustainability Charter Progress Report released in June 2021, FEFAC estimated that 96% of the feed used by compound feed manufacturers is not of food grade quality.

FEFAC takes pride in the inherent sustainability of the compound feed and premix industry as resource efficiency champions of the food chain. However, it stresses that environmental benefits derived from converting co-products into high value animal feed, can never be obtained at the expense of feed safety. FEFAC members and their suppliers apply strict and robust HACCP-based risk management systems in their respective auto-control programmes, based on EU feed hygiene guidelines, developed and assessed against the requirements of EU feed hygiene regulations and in line with other relevant EU feed safety legislation. FEFAC therefore looks forward in being closely involved in the EFSA project aimed at assessing “Food and feed safety vulnerabilities in a circular economy”.