IFEEDER’s Lara Moody explores the ways feed manufacturers can leverage life-cycle assessments (LCA) to support the food system’s sustainability targets
This fall, the Institute for Feed Education & Research (IFEEDER) will release Phase 1 of its Feed Sustainability Roadmap, an effort to provide the feed industry with the tools and resources necessary to enhance — or begin — a sustainability journey.
Life-cycle assessments, or LCAs, play a critical role in measuring the environmental footprint of all products along the value chain and providing transparency to downstream customers that allows them to achieve their sustainability goals and carbon emission targets. In food systems, animal feed is a crucial link in realizing the true environmental impact of production.
IFEEDER’s executive director Lara Moody joined the Chat to discuss how the application of LCA metrics can be used to improve the sustainability of the feed supply chain.
Transcript: Feed Strategy Chat featuring Lara Moody, executive director, IFEEDER
Jackie Roembke, editor in chief, WATT Feed brands/Feed Strategy: Hello everyone and welcome to Feed Strategy Chat. I am your host, Jackie Roembke, editor in chief of WATT Feed brands and Feed Strategy magazine.
This edition of Feed Strategy Chat is brought to you by WATT Global Media and FeedStrategy.com. FeedStrategy.com is your source for the latest news and leading-edge analysis of the global animal feed industry.
Today we’re joined on Zoom by Lara Moody, the executive director of the Institute for Feed Education & Research, also known as IFEEDER. She’s here to explore how life-cycle assessments, or LCAs, will improve the sustainability of global food systems and shape the feed supply chain.
Hi, Laura, how are you today?
Lara Moody, executive director, IFEEDER: Hey, Jackie, thanks for having me on. I’m doing great.
Roembke: Excellent. Absolutely. Thank you so much for being here. Well, let’s get right into it. For those unfamiliar with lifecycle assessments as they relate to feed production, why should feed producers of all sizes have this methodology and its applications on their radar?
Moody: Yeah, that’s a great question. So to start, just so everybody has an understanding of what lifecycle assessments are, and sometimes we refer to them as LCAs, they’re a way to assess the environmental impacts linked to a product over its lifetime. And that product, you know, we’re not only talking about food products here, right, we could be talking about a food product or oil or gas or something like that.
Initially, LCAs were a way for academics, like an academic exercise, to begin to understand the scope of various footprints in the supply chain. For example, which products are significant contributors to water or energy use or for carbon, which is the big word these days. Their presence in the sustainability dialogue has grown, I would say exponentially, in the last several years as more and more companies are looking to undertake their own product or process LCAs to understand where the hotspots are in their own systems.
So the findings from an LCA for a corporate entity can translate into where they can make improvements in their processes or within their supply chain. And that has the potential to not only reduce their footprints, but also to reduce their cost, right, to generate some cost savings as well.
Roembke: How can feed manufacturers use LCA data to support their downstream customers, their net-zero emission targets, and other sustainability goals?
Moody: I think it’s interesting to first remember, or important to first remember, that they’re only as representative as the data that goes into them. So junk data in, junk data out. So you can envision, for example, that an LCA calculated with national averages, what we call secondary data, wouldn’t provide the same kind of local result that if we were using primary data, and that would be information that was gathered directly from a process or production facility.
If you’re a downstream stakeholder of the feed sector, say our customer’s customer, you’ve likely been setting emission targets or other sustainability goals. Many of those very appropriately were set with data that was secondary data. That’s the correct method for doing it. But these stakeholders know that to make progress on their goals or their targets means that they need to get to more specific data to be able to be accountable, to be able to show those improvements, beyond just looking at averages.
In the recent webinar that IFEEDER co-hosted with World Wildlife Fund, we had on Erica Lain with Iowa Select Farms, a large pork producer in Iowa. They’ve recently did their own LCAs. First they did an LCA using more generic or secondary data using national averages for, say, corn production, and what they realized is that they believe they can have about a 40% improvement in their LCA just by using more specific data sets, including from feed.
The feed sector’s potential role in helping companies meet their targets and other places where feed is linked into their food supply chain is significant — not only through the innovations and what we bring for feed as a whole to be able to help produce those footprints — but the accountability and traceability of those improvements over time. That’s really where the feed sector has the potential to do some work in the LCA space.
Related content | 3 Things to know about LCAs for your products and production system: https://bit.ly/3B1vvmb
Roembke: Thank you for that explanation. Now, I know IFEEDER been working on some projects. Can you tell us a little bit about the soon-to-be-released Feed Sustainability Roadmap?
Moody: This is a project that we’ve had underway for about a year now. We’ve been working with a wide range of feed sector members to ensure we’re pulling in information and insights from folks that are small regional facilities to larger multinational, publicly held corporations. Everybody’s in a different place in their sustainability journey, and some have not yet started yet. So it’s important to hear from all of them. That effort is going to help us move the feed sector, as a whole, along, so provide resources for everybody in the feed sector, especially those that have not started their sustainability journey yet, but also help folks engage and align with our protein peers.
I often tell people I like to think about sustainability as two parallel tracks for the feed sector. On one side is the internal sustainability reporting that is being driven by the financial sector and corporate boards, sometimes we refer to that as ESG, or environmental social governance reporting. And the other track of sustainability for the feed sector is how we engage with the food supply chain, because we’re absolutely a part of sustainability efforts for the food supply chain.
Those two tracks are linked and they touch, but they are not the same. The information and resources that the feed sector needs to engage is different so the roadmap is really about identifying and creating resources to support animal feed’s internal sustainability efforts, but also it’s about pursuing efforts with the food supply chain.
The roadmap, we’re just completing Phase 1 of the work now. This fall, you’ll see initial information coming out from the roadmap will provide within it a template for members to use, who are just starting to think about their own sustainability journeys. And that toolbox that comes with that map may include resources, like how to do an LCA, like we’re talking about here, within that template.
Phase 2 of the work is going to be more about building out that toolbox to broaden the amount of resources that we have available, but also about working to engage our downstream stakeholders and filling the data gaps that we know exist in the sustainability space for feed.
Roembke: Excellent. Looking ahead, how may the Feed Sustainability Roadmap — that related research, these discussions that you’re having with stakeholders — and other industrywide sustainability initiatives shape the feed supply chain of the future?
Moody: Yeah, you know, our long-term vision … Well, first, IFEEDER itself is not in the position to set goals or targets for the industry. But our bigger, long-term vision, in alignment with, I think, the American Feed Industry Association, who we closely work with, is that feed and the innovations that the industry is advancing, are fully realized as part of the solutions available to reduce the impact of the whole food supply chain. And that collectively, there are mechanisms in place to capture the needed accountability and traceability.
Without that, you know, it doesn’t matter if we are achieving innovations and making change, if we can’t document it or tell anybody that we’re doing it. I mean, it matters, but we aren’t going to be able to get the credit that we deserve in the feed space for that work, if we don’t have a way to track it and trace it. You know, that we have those mechanisms in place and that the industry as a whole is moving in that direction.
Roembke: Very good. Now if you’d like more information about IFEEDER’s research and education efforts — and, of course, to view the Feed Sustainability Roadmap when it’s published — please visit www.ifeeder.org. Thanks so much, Lara, and thanks to you for tuning in.
Moody: Thanks Jackie.
Editor’s note: For more information about IFEEDER and its sustainability projects, email [email protected].
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