Maximizing the potential of sustainable swine production

In Brief

  • Global market trends highlight consumer and regulatory demands as the main drivers for future sustainable swine production
  • Swine feed contributes significantly to the environmental footprint of swine production, emphasizing the importance of reducing reliance on certain feed materials

  • Strategies to lower the environmental footprint of feed include adopting alternative protein sources, minimizing soy use, and incorporating locally grown raw materials while addressing challenges like fiber, mycotoxins, and anti-nutrients

  • Change can only start by understanding where the journey begins and with the new Sustell™ intelligent sustainability service measuring environmental footprints coming from feed and production, tangible metrics can be measured and used to encourage collaboration across the value chain

In the dynamic landscape of the global pork value chain, downstream influencers such as consumers and retailers play a pivotal role in setting the trajectory for upstream participants. Consumer preferences are increasingly shaped by seven overarching global trends, spanning transparency, sustainability, plant-based alternatives, omnichannel distribution, health-centric choices, and affordability. Against the backdrop of a burgeoning global population projected to reach 9-10 billion by 2050, the imperative to boost animal protein supply by 60% presents formidable challenges in land utilization. Notably, Europe stands out with a strong commitment to sustainability, evident in initiatives like the EU Green Deal and the 2030 Farm to Fork strategy, reshaping the agricultural paradigm. Within this context, the swine industry is undergoing a transformation, with companies aligning with Science Based Targets (SBT) initiatives, aiming for emission reductions and broader sustainability objectives in the medium to long term.

Practical approach to reducing the carbon footprint of swine production

Swine feed accounts for as much as 62% of the carbon footprint of a kilogram of pork. The major contributors to this are conventional cereal and oilseed ingredients (corn, wheat, barley and especially soybean-meal) as shown in Figure 1. Therefore, feeding pigs with a lower carbon footprint diet will already have an impact on a swine producer's environmental footprint.

Figure 1. Percentage contribution of each ingredient to the total estimated carbon footprint (expressed as CO2 equivalents per kilogram of feed) of a typical grower and finisher pig diet in Benelux (Source: dsm-firmenich). 

Soybean meal commonly used as a protein source for pigs can have a substantial environmental impact based on where it originates from. Soybean meal from Latin America for instance, has a very high carbon footprint due to the impact of land use. So much so that new legislation will require soy or soy products being sold in the European market to demonstrate proof of origin from non-deforested land by the end of 2024.

Therefore, one of the strategies that can be adopted to reduce the carbon footprint of feed is to reduce reliance on soy-based protein from deforested land but also reduce the need for soy overall. Lowering the crude protein content of feed and meeting the amino acid requirements of the animal by using synthetic amino acids where cost-efficient, not only negates the need for so much protein meal but also reduces the nitrogen emissions from the system. In addition, incorporating protein from other non-human edible, locally sourced raw materials such as sunflower, rapeseed meal, field peas, etc. and/or non-traditional raw materials such as insect meal and algae protein will potentially reduce the environmental impact of pig feed. 

Commercial pig diets are becoming more diverse as a result. The incorporation of alternative raw materials brings some additional complexity in the form of more fiber, indigestible protein, mycotoxins, and anti-nutrients that all need to be considered. Producers can make use of NIR technology to understand how much nutrients such as energy, phosphorus and amino acids can be extracted by using tailored feed enzyme solutions. Screening for mycotoxins provides a clear understanding of feed quality and potential risks to animals that can be mitigated through an effective mycotoxin risk management solution.  

To facilitate the transition towards more sustainable swine production, a comprehensive approach is needed to manage all aspects of the production system from the feed to animal performance and the management of the manure. Clearly, this approach will require a collaborative ecosystem of stakeholders including feed manufacturers, additive suppliers, experts on manure management, veterinarians, nutritionists, and retailers to name a few from all across the value chain all working together to achieve this goal. Producers must also have effective means to measure their environmental footprint in the first place. 

dsm-firmenich is a company committed to supporting the swine industry to become more sustainable in a proactive way. Learn how we can help you make your herd ready for tomorrow.


Clear steps towards a sustainable swine production

Our experts work closely with you to shape a strong future for your business following a stepwise approach.

  1. Start with a thorough assessment of your operations, creating a roadmap to turn challenges into opportunities with Sustell™. It allows for a precise and credible calculation of feed and farm environmental footprint unlocking sustainability's value, providing practical, science-based solutions for your business goals.
  2. Set the sustainability targets for your operations. 
  3. Assess available strategies, selecting those with the optimal economic and environmental impact. 
  4. Pilot, implement, measure and adjust. 

Given that feed is responsible for over 60% of a pig farm’s carbon footprint, nutritional strategies can play an important role in reducing it. Because each farm is different, the baseline starting point of each farm is also different. Once that baseline is established, a variety of strategies can be applied to improve efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint. 

Figure 2 illustrates how diet reformulation to meet animal requirements, improving the digestibility of raw materials, enhancing gastrointestinal functionality and productivity improvement can be combined to achieve a 15% reduction in the footprint of a swine fattening system.

Figure 2. Measurement and nutritional strategies reduce the environmental footprint of pork (Source: Based on dsm-firmenich data in 2023 for selected solutions, according to FAO LEAP Guidelines and ISO standards).


In response to global demands for sustainable pork production, the swine industry is adapting to address environmental concerns. Key strategies include reducing reliance on high-carbon soy-based feed, incorporating alternative raw materials, and fostering a collaborative ecosystem across the value chain. dsm-firmenich plays a proactive role, leveraging its new intelligent sustainability service Sustell™ for precise and credible calculation of feed and farm environmental footprint. 

Our approach, spanning feed enzymes, mycotoxin risk management, and innovative ingredients like VevoVitallTM, will help you save costs, and get the most value from locally sourced raw materials while reducing environmental emissions, all without ever compromising on performance.


  1. European Commission, 2019. Communication from the European Parliament, the European Council, The Countil, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee Of The Regions. The European Green Deal. Accessible at:

  2. European Commission, 2020. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. A farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system. Accessible at: 

  3. FAO, 2012. World Agriculture towards 2030/2050: the 2012 revision. Accessible at: G Reiner, J Kuehling, F Loewenstein, M Lechner, S Becker. (2021). Swine inflammation and Necrosis Syndrome (SINS). Animals (Basel). 11:1670

Published on

03 January 2024


  • Swine
  • Sustainability

About the Authors

Dr. Maria Walsh  Global Swine Marketing Director

Maria Walsh is the Global Swine Marketing Director. Maria is an Irish national with a PhD in Animal Science from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, USA. She has more than 15 years of experience as a scientist and researcher. She joined dsm-firmenich in 2018 as a Senior Scientist, and has managed the swine innovation pipeline for the Animal Nutrition & Health business, including new product development and application solutions from ideation to commercialization. 


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