Why buy a rainforest when Carbon credit is on the doorstep of Belgium Livestock Farming?
So what is sustainability? If it is the byword with which we communicate acceptable, good, or better farming, how are we going to prove it? Livestock production is not that bad, but lack of clear facts means there is too much assumption because discussions around sustainability are based on subjection and not facts. This leads to confusion.
Some, namely NGO’s frequently take advantage of this and we end up with a miss informed society, that points the accusing finger based on emotion. At Inno+ we decided to find out more, to in effect put a number on sustainability. This set us on a good path for sensible discussion about the carbon footprint of pig and poultry production and how we as company could do something to improve this.
Next month in the last on my series, I will cover Green labelling and how we can turn the information produced from carbon scoring into a profitable business for farmers.
Sustainability is a societal goal that broadly aims for humans to safely co-exist on planet Earth over a long time. Specific definitions of sustainability are difficult to agree on and therefore vary in the literature and over time. Sustainability is commonly described along the lines of three dimensions (also called pillars): environmental, economic and social. This concept can be used to guide decisions at the global, national and at the individual level (e.g. sustainable living). For livestock farming, the three cornerstones tend to breakdown as:
- Economic – If our Belgium farmers cannot stay in profit, then there is no production and such no food.
- Welfare – this form of farming involves animals and if we intend using them as a source of food, they at least deserve a ‘life worth living’ and as such should experience good welfare whilst in our care. In addition, an animal that experiences good welfare performs better and therefore is more profitable and has less impact on the environment.
- Environment – the demand for food with a growing population is at such a level we have to make sure we have enough resources to grow it and at the same time make sure the processes we use do not destroy he planet.
The concepts Inno+ offers focus on all three areas of sustainability; however, the foundation of what we do is based on saving the planet and reducing the environmental impact of livestock farming.
What is the environmental impact?
We therefore asked ourselves the question. What is environmental impact and the benefit our systems bring in terms of farm sustainability? At which point, quickly realized we did not know the answer. In fact, we did not even know what the environmental impact of a pig or poultry was. So we engaged with the Blonk group to find out. Blonk are experts in LCA (Life cycle assessment) modelling for the food industry. The idea was to use their modelling to measure the carbon load of farms to find the base line and then apply Inno+ system performance numbers to calculate the impact our concepts had on the base line figures.
We then formulated the results to produce a report.
Armed with the information it is now possible for us to make a Carbon assessment of a particular production and determine the impact our systems have on the Carbon profile of the farm. Of course, we can see dramatic swings in reduction mainly brought about by the impact our pre condition can have. A big element of the profile is feed use and depending on how climate was managed before, we see improvements in feed use typically from between 2-10%. This improvement alone can have a dramatic effect on the Carbon profile.
Has the Belgium society been miss lead?
One thing we noticed was that in general for Pig and poultry production the carbon impact per kilogram of meat was around 4kgs. When we consider for example what the average Europeans meat consumption is per year (est 50kgs) and multiply this out. Then the average carbon load per capita is around 200kgs per year for meat consumption based on a pig/chicken diet. When we compare this to the overall carbon score per Capita (the figures do vary – 5-20 tons per year), based on 10 tons of carbon. Then the environmental impact of meat consumption is relatively low of 2%. This figure does not course take into account replacement with a food alternative (Est 1.3%) and of course whilst low doesn’t mean we should ignore a need to reduce even further. Emotion will continue to stimulate the finger pointing and we need to do everything we can to keep the industry ‘clean’.
Carbon credits – Inno+ top of the class
Because of this work we were encouraged to find out how we performance regards our carbon profile and the impact our systems had in relation to our carbon footprint. There were two main reasons for doing this:
- Firstly – to provide proof to our customers the benefit Inno+ brings them during their discussions on supplier carbon friendliness.
- Secondly – to demonstrate to larger organizations the gains that can be made across larger estates (multiple farms) our systems offer. This could be Integrators, Feed companies, Governments, Retailers. All looking to notch up Carbon credits that bring more localized benefit, as opposed to buying credits to look good.
- Governments – by setting clear rules regards emission abatement from farms and sticking to them, the nett effect could be dramatic. In addition, if subsidies are to be paid, why not do it based on actual figures on carbon improvement, as part of the ‘licence to produce’. At the same time gaining them carbon credits.
- Retail – by developing a brand strategy around green labelling in relation to farm emission reduction in this way and charging a small premium for it. This could go a long way to helping farmers meet current emission targets and act as ‘carbon credit’ for the companies and brands concerned.
For more information on our approach to measuring sustainability and carbon scoring:
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