Can We Make it Possible?

As the world’s population grows, demand for animal protein will continue to rise. To meet this demand sustainably, within planetary limits, will be a big challenge. Do you think it’s an impossible challenge? We don’t.

At DSM we have been working for decades on food sustainability, especially with respect to animal proteins – it’s the basis of our purpose. We strongly believe in balanced, healthy nutrition with animal proteins being a highly nutritious and key part of a balanced, healthy diet. However, like other forms of food production livestock farming comes at a cost. This cost is increasingly evident, and is highly nuanced depending on farming methods, geography and animal species.  Nevertheless, the sustainability of mainstream animal production is under increasing scrutiny from the value chain, policy makers and associated stakeholders.  This means that continuing to operate as we have done in the past is not an option. All players involved in the production of animal protein need to be aware of the challenges we are facing.  We must work together to solve them – applying new thinking, new technologies, and new business models in order to create a more sustainable industry – protecting the plant, being more socially responsible and economically viable.

We have seen several examples around the world showing that it is possible, that it can be done. From carbon neutral beef produced in Brazil without any deforestation to salmon produced in Norway with zero use  of finite marine ingredients and helping to reduce pressure on our over-fished oceans. From  huge and very traditional poultry and pork operators embracing sustainability measuring their impacts and setting up aggressive, publicly stated  targets and actions to the largest fast food chain in the world making a public commitment to zero deforestation and revolutionizing the relationship with their supply chain and civil society to make it happen. From a small farm in Swaziland producing eggs to improve the nutrition and health  of thousands of orphan children in the country, to the largest grain traders and meatpackers in the world getting together to adopt a satellite monitoring system to monitor and reduce deforestation from happening in their supply chains.  There are many initiatives and actions unfolding as we speak, based on new approaches to business, greater collaboration through the value chain and the greater use of technologies.

At the same time we now live in a world where 821 million people suffer from hunger, while more than 650 million people are obese. That’s why DSM strongly believes in healthier diets for all - within planetary boundaries. Everyone deserves the right to eat well and enjoy the benefits that good nutrition brings. Today, we’re working with everyone - from scientists and business partners, to the World Food Programme and Africa Improved Foods - to make this happen and fulfil five of the UN’s most important Sustainable Development Goals. This involves, among other things, increasing the sustainability, quality and nutritional content of food – and also of animal feed. Feed is responsible for between 50% and 80% of the environmental footprints of animal proteins, similar to the weight it has on the cost of production, and it also plays a critical role in producing health animals and in generating animal proteins with high nutritional value and quality.

Healthy, diverse & sustainable animal proteins

The need to provide enough animal protein for a growing population, while reducing the environmental costs of farming will require smart science and innovative solutions. To address this challenge, DSM Animal Nutrition and Health has launched its cutting edge new strategic initiative: WE MAKE IT POSSIBLE.

Its mission is to lead and help the industry to build a robust and achievable transformation worldwide in animal protein production sustainability, and to accelerate solutions that will foster a brighter future for everyone. A win-win for feed producers, farmers, processors, retailers, consumers and our future generations. It’s based on addressing 6 key sustainability platforms:

We help address these different challenges with very concrete and tangible solutions for animal nutrition. DSM offers breakthrough solutions in many areas – from eubiotics as effective  solutions to reducing the use of antibiotics in animal farming and helping tackle AMR, through to algae-based omega-3 to reduce the aquaculture industry’s reliance on finite marine resources and to enzymes to improve the digestibility and utilization of multiple feed ingredients to reduce the amount of grains and soy used in animal production. Below you can find a few examples of them per platform.  More information can also be found at DSM Feed Talks

Helping tackle anti-microbial resistance: Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) poses a major societal health threat. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and animal production are two of the main reasons for the rise in AMR Through smart nutrition, DSM’s eubiotics solutions support a healthy animal that helps to minimize the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics and can also lead to the replacement of antibiotics for growth promotion, thereby reducing the spread of AMR.. VevoVitall for instance, included in piglet diets at 0.5% consistently improved weight gain by more than 5% and reduced the feed conversion ratio by more than 2.5%, eliminating the need for AGPs. Balancius consistently improves feed conversion by 3% in broilers and average weight gain by 4-6%, thereby lessening the need for AGPs and supporting sustainable poultry production.

Reducing our reliance on marine resources: Seafood is an excellent source of protein, as well as omega-3 EPA and DHA that help keep the heart healthy. Approximately 30% of the world’s population relies on seafood as their primary animal protein source – this coming from wild catch and aquaculture.  Currently, 76% of the worlds’ fisheries are either depleted or over-exploited so aquaculture plays a critical role now and in the future. But aquaculture growth is heavily dependent on finite marine resources for fish feed, particularly omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oil – they are a nutritional requirement for many aquaculture species.  For the ‘Blue Revolution’ to continue, solving the issue of finite marine resources is critical – an alternative to fish oil derived EPA and DHA is essential. DSM formed a JV with Evonik to address this issue. The JV, Veramaris produces highly concentrated algal omega-3 EPA and DHA oil using naturally occurring marine algae in a waste free, highly sustainable large scale fermentation process Veramaris produces the equivalent amount of omega-3 EPA and DHA to that obtained from 1.2 million tons of wild catch fish – more than the annual catch of the Mediterranean Sea. 

Making efficient use of natural resources: Today approximately 50% of the world’s grain harvest and 70% of the world’s soy is used in animal feed.  This is cultivated on a limited amount of land and as demand for animal protein grows so does the pressure on land use change for animal feed – a major driver of biodiversity loss.  Essentially we must extract more nutrition our of less and reduce the pressure on land use change.  This is done by improving the digestibility of these feed raw materials and enabling the greater use of by-products and local feed raw materials., At DSM’s we have innovated novel enzyme solutions that improve the nutritional value of the feed, enabling greater diversity of feed raw materials, reducing our reliance soy and thereby helping to reduce pressure on deforestation and natural habitat conversion. For example the protease feed enzyme ProAct enables greater use of alternative feed raw materials and feed formulation flexibility by increasing the amount of digestible protein in feed by 5.2% to 8.9%.  By doing this means replacing on average 25kg of soybean meal per ton of feed (or 8% less) for broilers. Used globally in broilers, ProAct would allow the replacement of 7.2m tons of soybean meal corresponding to 9.0m tons of soy, leading to a lower deforestation pressure of 3.1 million ha per year.

Reducing emissions in livestock: With livestock and fish production contributing to 14.5% of our world’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, it’s essential that we take action now – especially when you consider that the world will demand an additional 40 million tons of meat and 25 million tons of fish each day by 2026. Reducing GHGs, but also nitrogen and phosphorus residues from animal manure in the soils, oceans and fresh water is an urgent priority for the world. Approximately 40% of the 14.5% global emissions coming from animal production are associated with enteric methane from ruminants.  At DSM we have developed over many years Bovaer, a cutting-edge technology that directly reduces the methane emissions from ruminants by a minimum of 30% - a highly significant step in the right direction.  However, nitrogen and phosphorus emissions from animal production are also very important to address since they are key drivers of land and water eutrophication and biodiversity loss - in areas like the EU this is a major issue shaping the industry. 

DSM has developed solutions that help address these issues, ranging from the use of phytase feed enzymes to significantly reduce phosphorus pollution to VevoVitall that consistently and significantly lowers ammonia (nitrogen) emissions from swine operations. For example, ammonia emissions from growing-fattening pigs are reduced on average by approximately 16% with 1% VevoVitall in the diet – a very tangible, measurable impact on emissions reduction.  

Improving Lifetime performance of farm animals: Replacing livestock due to health and disease issues comes at a significant economic cost, with morbidity and mortality due to disease causing the loss of ~$300 billion annually; the associated environmental cost is also significant. DSM is providing science-led, innovative solutions to extend the lifetime performance of animals and to reduce the occurrence of diseases. DSM has developed proven nutritional programs for dairy cows that improve reproduction rate, lower mastitis rates and lameness while ensuring that the cow remains longer in the herd, producing more milk longer, thereby leading a more productive life.  Through our nutritional programs we also help hens continue to lay eggs over their complete lay cycle, thereby reducing the number of replacement birds and the resources needed – a much more sustainable process.  In broilers for example, we have developed solutions that improve litter dry matter and reduce the nitrogen level which leads to a decreased incidence of footpad dermatitis, breast blisters and hock burns in birds. This is achieved by lowering the protein content of diets by using the feed protease enzyme ProAct leading to a 38% average improvement in footpad scores, improving animal welfare and reducing economic losses.

Improving the quality of animal proteins, while reducing food loss and waste: There are sufficient calories to feed the global population; however, this is prevented by disproportionate food distribution coupled with the loss and waste of more than 1 billion tons of food each year, resulting in about 24% of food calories produced never being eaten. Improving the integral quality of meat, milk, fish and eggs via nutritional intervention can limit food waste at each stage of the food supply chain. DSM is pioneering robust nutritional solutions to enable tangible, measurable improvements. . For example, DSM’s vitamin D3 metabolite, Hy-D (the bioactive form of vitamin D), allows for more effective vitamin D and mineral metabolism, leading to a 4% increase in egg shell thickness and a 15% reduction in egg breakages during production, processing, transportation and distribution.  Today, it is estimated that 20% of meat is wasted – a huge issue for sustainable food systems to address.  Much of this is due to meat spoilage (contamination, rancidity, discoloration and off-flavors).  DSM is addressing this through feeding animals Optimum Vitamin Nutrition (OVN).  Through this program we improve the quality of meat, extending the shelf life of fresh meat by 3-6 days and that of frozen by 2-3 months and help reduce the amount that is lost or wasted.

We strongly believe in sustainable food systems and that the livestock industry can transform itself from within to be a part of the solution. We want to play a key role in this transformation and work at species and country level, with our customers, partners, producers and other stakeholders, to provide tangible and actionable solutions to create brighter lives for all. Working together we do can make it possible!

If not us, who? 

If not now, when?


David Nickell, VP sustainability, DSM Animal Nutrition & Health

Carlos M. Saviani, Manager sustainability and business solutions, DSM Animal Nutrition & Health

Published on

31 August 2020


  • Sustainability

About the Authors

David Nickell - VP of Sustainability and Business Solutions, Animal Nutrition and Health at dsm-firmenich

David Nickell is Vice President of Sustainability & Business Solutions at dsm-firmenich. He plays a leading role in the development of strategies and new technologies to enable the sustainable development of animal and plant protein production to meet the demands of a growing population. He has a PhD in marine biology from the University of Stirling.

Carlos Marcelo Saviani - Global Sustainability and Business Solutions Lead for Animal Nutrition and Health

Carlos Marcelo Saviani is the Global Sustainability and Business Solutions Lead for Animal Nutrition and Health. He holds a BS in Animal Science later complemented by an MBA.

Carlos has 25 years of experience working to improve the sustainability of animal proteins across the world. At DSM he is responsible for the development and implementation of the global animal nutrition and health sustainability strategy. He works closely with customers and the marketing, sales and innovation teams to incorporate sustainability as a business driver.


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