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The future of sustainable UK livestock feed

The report by Tesco, 'The Future of Feed: A WWF Roadmap to Accelerating Insect Protein in UK Feed,' delves profoundly into the intricate workings of our global food system. Below is a condensed version of what the report touches on:

Beyond their role as a primary source of sustenance, livestock carries immense cultural and nutritional significance worldwide.

Their unique capacity to convert raw, often non-human consumable materials like grass and agricultural remnants into essential animal protein stands as a fundamental mechanism in our food supply chain.

The staggering figure of 80 billion animals reared and processed annually worldwide underscores an immense need for animal feed. This heavy reliance on soy raises alarming concerns due to its direct association with deforestation and habitat degradation, notably impacting ecologically fragile regions like the Brazilian Cerrado and Argentine Gran Chaco.

The subsequent toll on the environment is worrisome, especially considering the surplus consumption of animal protein in Europe that exceeds nutritional requirements.

The 'less and better' meat and dairy consumption model advocated by the Eating Better Alliance emphasises the reduction of meat intake while favouring products sourced from animals raised in healthier ecosystems and provided with sustainable diets. These principles ensure that animals are reared in environments upholding superior animal welfare standards. Within this paradigm, the quality of feed emerges as a cornerstone for producing higher-quality meat.

Enhancing feed production aligning with principles that safeguard forests, prioritize land for human food production, mitigate environmental toxicity, and responsibly manage water usage presents a critical pathway for enhancing efficiency and minimising environmental harm. Insects, characterised by their high protein content and remarkable ability to convert a diverse array of materials into valuable biomass, emerge as a promising alternative source of feed.

Insects serve as a concentrated source of protein and play pivotal roles in ecosystem functions, such as pollination and waste decomposition. Scaling up insect farming, with a special focus on species like the black soldier fly (BSF), promises to reduce reliance on soy and fishmeal in livestock feed substantially. The transition also presents an opportunity to repurpose surplus food and by-products that would otherwise go to waste.

The report forecasts a substantial future demand—approximately 540,000 tonnes of insect meal annually by 2050—from the UK's pig, poultry, and salmon sectors. If this demand is met domestically, it could significantly diminish reliance on soy and fishmeal, potentially reducing soy imports by as much as 20%. This reduction in soy imports would effectively mitigate the environmental impact of soy production, including deforestation.

In short, the projected cost-effectiveness of insect meal, eventually rivalling current prices of fishmeal and soy, could potentially revolutionize the feed industry. For instance, BSF meal boasts an impressive protein content ranging between 56% to 82%, surpassing traditional protein sources like soy. However, materialising this vision requires concerted efforts from the UK industry and policymakers. Presently, the production volumes of UK-reared insect meal fall short of enabling widespread adoption due to low investment and demand. Realising the full potential of this burgeoning industry demands collaborative action to nurture a more diverse, sustainable, and environmentally conscious feed system.


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