Download data
photo shows pigs being fed

Soy policies for companies in the animal feed sector

by Laura Schofield

Global demand for soy is rapidly growing, and has more than doubled since the mid-1990s. Due to the diverse nature of the crop, its high protein content and low production costs, it has become a common ingredient in many food and household products. But by far its greatest use is in the production of animal feed, which accounts for approximately 75%-85% of global consumption.

Brazil is currently one of the largest producers of soybean crops in the world, and soy production has been seen as a significant driver of tropical deforestation and land use change, creating problems relating to biodiversity, climate change, water availability, soil quality and also social conflicts.

Given the dominance of the animal feed sector as consumers of soy companies in this sector could play an important role in influencing the future sustainability of soy by introducing and implementing sustainability policies throughout their supply chains.

How do animal feed companies shape up?

The 2017 Forest 500 assessment of 250 companies operating in forest risk supply chains, assess 16 companies operating in the animal feed sector.

None of these companies achieved a top score for their supply chain policies. Cargill, one of the five key players dominating Brazilian soy trade, was the only one to have a forest policy that covered all of the soy they source, and achieved an overall score of 4 / 5.

Two other animal feed companies, DLG Denmark and De Heus, have forest polices but both were limited in the regions they covered. The remaining 13 companies did not have a forest policy for the soy they source.

Unequal geographical attention

While great progress has been made in reducing rates of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon through the Soy Moratorium, the impacts of soy expansion in other areas with important biodiversity, such as the Cerrado, have taken longer to be recognised.

The Cerrado is home to around  5% of the world’s biodiversity, and it is also an important water source for much of the rest of Brazil. If current rates of land use change continue, around 30% of the remaining vegetation will be cleared by 2050.  The Cerrado Manifesto, introduced in October 2017, seeks to address these impacts. A voluntary initiative, it has now been supported by 67 companies who have signed a statement of support.

Yet none of the influential animal feed companies identified by Forest 500 have signed up to support the Cerrado Manifesto, not even Cargill. Given the dominant role that these companies play in the trade of soy, support from these companies is vital.

 The need to act

There is growing pressure for animal feed companies to step up to the mark with more sustainable sourcing policies for their soy. Many of the companies that have supported the Cerrado Manifesto – retail companies such as Marks & Spencer, Lidl, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – will be seeking to source meat and animal products from producers that can guarantee their supplies are deforestation free.

This “embedded” soy – hidden from the ingredients, but present nevertheless – needs to be addressed. Because where there is hidden soy, there may also be hidden deforestation in the supply chain.

Laura Schofield was an intern at Global Canopy

Photo: Dana McMahan via flickr.com, creative commons licence