Sustainable cattle fodder, sustainable meat

Did you know that over 40,000 tonnes of fresh meat and charcuterie cross the counters of our shops each year? And to feed their animals healthily, our farmers and suppliers need over 30,000 tonnes of soy as a protein source. So it’s only logical that we join forces for the responsible production of that raw material. Because if we want sustainable meat, we must also look after the basics: sustainable cattle fodder.

VIDEO: a strategy for sustainable feed

Soy, the driving force behind cattle fodder

Animals destined for human consumption receive only vegetable nutrition. Sufficient proteins are an important component of this. And the majority of these come from soybean meal. As a crop, soy requires little fertilisation and yields by far the most proteins per hectare.

Farmer dishing out cattle fodder
Soybean meal is processed into cattle feed as a protein-rich raw material.

Imports from South America

In addition to the benefits of legumes, the growth of the soy industry has faced many challenges. In Belgium, soy is mainly imported from Brazil and Argentina, where large agricultural concerns carry out intensive soy cultivation. If this is not done in a sustainable manner, it involves great risks. We’re talking about deforestation, large-scale land ownership or monoculture.

The right quantity

Making cattle fodder more sustainable means using as little of it as possible in the first place. Of course, that’s not to say that we’re going to let the animals go hungry, but that we need to check precisely how much fodder they need to grow up healthily. Together with our suppliers, we systematically examine all the data about feed volumes and the growth of their animals. Since the beginning of 2016, we’ve focused on chicken meat. In the long term, we want to optimise the feed volumes for all species.

Chicken feed
As much as is needed to grow well, accurate measuring is one way to make animal feed more sustainable.

Preferably local

And what about Belgian soy production? Today, it's still in a start-up phase. Nevertheless, it can be a solution to avoid a lot of transport kilometres and, in an ideal situation, create natural cycles where, for example, manure from a pig farm is returned to the field where the farmer grows the pig feed.

Pig farm Belgium
Through research, we know which soy species will return the best yield in Belgian soil.

For the last 4 years, we’ve given our support to major research into Flemish soy cultivation, led by the Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO). This indicates that our region is perfect for soy cultivation. The first trial harvests with five farmers were a success. The initial soy is destined for human consumption. In the longer term, we’re also looking at whether we can use Flemish soybean meal in our supply chains. At the same time, we’re also investigating alternative protein sources such as insects, algae and weeds.

As sustainable as possible

In the meantime, we’re largely dependent on soy from South America. So we’re thoroughly committed to responsible cultivation through the international standard for sustainable soy from the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS). We buy RTRS certificates for all the soy for our production chains from a cooperative of about 30 small family companies in Brazil, whom we’re helping with the process of sustainability, along with the Trias NGO.

Read more
Soy famers in the fields in Brazil
The Brazilian farmers in our RTRS project are already celebrating a first positive audit and sustainable harvest.

With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Responsible consumption & production Climate action Life on land