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Reusing what you already have

The concept of sustainability in animal nutrition is meant to reduce both feed and food wastes. Livestock production systems have received growing attention in recent years since they have clearly been identified as a deep environmental impact factor. Moreover, cost of animal feed represents up to 85% of the farm gate value of several farm animals. From this perspective, sustainability in livestock productivity cannot be achieved without using sustainable animal diets. Corn meal/grain and soybean meal were identified as the major feedstuffs used to formulate animal rations, which are also meant to be human edible materials.


 Keeping nutrients in the food chain

FAO forecasts predict that by 2050 the world population will reach 9,7 billion people. This means that food requirements will consequently increase: in order to supply these growing needs, food waste and the current competition for raw materials between humans and animals will have to be reduced. To ensure food and water for the whole population it will be necessary switching from a linear (take- production-consume-throw away) to a circular economy.

This means that circular economy is an evolution of the traditional linear one. Additionally, it also is a more sustainable model in which products could be always reused without creating wastes.

Under this perspective,  circularity is the most important topic to focus on: production, distribution, consumption/use and reuse, collection and at finally recycling.   
Furthermore, this economic model is considered to follow the 3-R approach: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle to extend the products life cycle and to reduce waste.

If industries use this system, it will be possible reducing the environmental impact and raw materials wastes. Every year, around 20% of food produced in EU is lost or wasted, causing unacceptable social, environmental and economic harm.


Circular economy could also be adapted to the feed industry. Ex-food represent a useful way for converting losses from the food industry into ingredients for animal feed, keeping nutrients in the food chain. This makes possible reusing what should be wasted, turning it into feed ingredients with an increased value.

Figure 1 and 2: designed by Marco Tretola



Novel feeds are a new source of feed materials rather than the “classical” one (forage and concentrate i.e. barley, corn, oats, wheat, canola meal and soybean in dairy cows diets and cereal grain for pigs). New animal feeds are for example by/co-products such as former food products (FFPs) or plants by products (PBPs).

FFPs and PBPs are feed ingredients composed by processed and ready to eat food products, no longer suitable for human consumption due to logistical, manufacturing or packaging defects.

FFP’s ingredients may be divided in two different categories:

  • leftovers of bakery industry (i.e bread, crackers, crisps, pasta, etc.)
  • leftovers of confectionary industry (i.e. chocolates, biscuits, etc.)

They are mainly used for pigs, which can be administered these products because of their omnivorous nature. In fact, swine gastrointestinal tract is able to turn human food into nutrients useful for their metabolism.

Different materials still under investigation are PBPs, also called IV range products, that are derived from fresh and cut fruits and vegetables. They represent a specific category of former foodstuffs and an important
human-inedible feed resource for livestock production.

Both by/co-products represent a way by which losses are converted
from food sector into valuable ingredients for the feed one.
Thereby, it is possible to reintegrate ex-food, which are around
one-third of all food produced (5 million tons/year),
into the food chain. Using less food-competing feedstuffs
in animal diets might be a potential strategy to reduce
food-feed competition and mitigate the environmental
impacts of livestock production systems.


Upgrading food leftovers to valuable feed ingredients

Modern agriculture faces the challenge of an increasing competition between animals and humans. In particular livestock production has received considerable attention over the extent to which animal feed production competes for land and other resources with production of human food.
Livestock is nowadays consuming a huge amount of human resources such grasslands, of which about 700 million ha could be used to grow crops.      
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) stated that for meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, natural resources should be wisely exploited. Moreover, it has also been estimated that around 3kg of human edible materials are needed to produce 1kg of meat. These data, however, have to be considered with caution, since wide differences across species and production systems exist. In fact, while ruminants consume more dry matter per kg of protein produced compared to pigs or poultry, they require less human-edible protein, since they can rely more on grass and forages (inedible by humans directly).

In livestock production systems, the cost of animal feed represents up to 85% of the farm gate value of several animal products. In light of this, proper feeding and nutrition strategies are becoming increasingly important as livestock systems strive to become more efficient. Thereby, the use of alternative feed ingredients in farm animal diets can be a fascinating option from several standpoints and ex-food recycling will become an interesting model to keep natural resources available even by future generations. Read more PDF: Luciano A. et all, Animals []