New pathways in sustainable animal protein

Fueled by escalating population growth, global demand for sustainable animal protein is growing, placing increasing pressure on the planet’s finite resources. But what does ‘sustainable animal protein’ mean in practical terms, and how can it be transformed from a business value into a business driver?

Dr. David Nickell, Vice President Sustainability at DSM Nutritional Products, Animal Nutrition & Health, outlines DSM’s approach to meeting the rising demand for nutritious, affordable animal protein while remaining within critical planetary boundaries.

The need for sustainable livestock production

The world’s population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050. At the same time, demand for healthier, balanced, and more nutrient-dense diets is increasing – driven not only by the growth of the world’s population but also by changing health awareness and consumer expectations.

Animal-based proteins are highly nutritious and form a key part of a balanced, healthy diet. Their consumption is also central to many cultures, and animal-sourced foods and other animal-sourced products play an important socio-economic role in those cultures. However, livestock production comes at a cost. This cost is increasingly evident.

Rising demand for animal protein is driving up greenhouse gas emissions and piling pressure on natural resources. In some cases, this pressure has already transgressed accepted planetary boundaries. The sustainability of mainstream animal production is consequently coming 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 for the whole planet.

Changing consumer expectations

Consumers in general are tending to view livestock farming more and more critically. In some parts of the world – notably China and South-East Asia – demand for animal-sourced foods is growing as populations become more affluent. In others, particularly Europe and the US, there is a trend in certain sections of the population to reduce consumption of animal proteins, leading to more balanced diets. However, per capita consumption of animal protein in these regions still far outstrips levels in other parts of the world.

The picture is complex and far from uniform around the globe. Certain things are nevertheless clear. Concern about the sustainability of animal protein production is escalating. For example, worries over the continued use of antibiotic growth promoters (APGs) in livestock farming are widespread – and justifiably so, because of their proven link to anti-microbial resistance (AMR). Moreover, the scale of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with animal production is recognized as a significant contributor to global warming.

This means that stakeholders in animal production value chains will increasingly have to think beyond the traditional categories of performance and margins. The vital role of performance in the equation will not change, of course, nor will margins become any less important.  These will need to be secured, however, in ways that are genuinely and measurably sustainable.

DSM: A company with sustainability at its core

DSM’s thinking is continually evolving, because we are always looking to deliver transformational innovation to meet previously unmet needs – and the needs of the world are changing fast around us. Sustainability has been a key concern of DSM’s for many years now, and is the core value of our company today. As attested by numerous partnerships and awards, we deliver science-based, sustainable and scalable solutions that tackle some of the biggest challenges currently facing our world.

Sustainability underpins our Purpose Led, Performance Driven strategy. This strategy focuses on the three sustainable growth areas Nutrition and Health, Resources and Circular Economy, and Climate Change and Renewable Energy. In doing so, it addresses five of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals: Zero Hunger (2), Good Health and Well-Being (3), Affordable and Clean Energy (7), Climate Action (13) and Responsible Consumption and Production (12).

Sustainability is who we are and what we do at DSM. This is not some idealistic call to simply make the world a better place At DSM, we see sustainability as the core driver of our business, and we believe that by creating solutions that address societal needs and offer our customers innovative, sustainable solutions, we will enjoy above-average growth, allowing us to deliver attractive returns to the shareholders who place their trust in our company.

Within the framework of our activities in Nutrition and Health, this means that we advocate healthy, balanced and affordable diets for all that will allow the world’s growing population to be fed using the natural resources available while staying within the planetary boundaries. This involves, among other things, increasing the quality and nutritional content of food – and also of feed, which is where our Animal Nutrition and Health business comes in.

DSM Animal Nutrition and Health’s sustainability strategy

We must offer nutritional solutions that allow us to produce more animal protein – significantly more animal protein – with greater efficiency, paying full regard to animal welfare, product quality and process safety, while reducing the impact of our operations on the environment. At the same time, we have to ensure that our innovative portfolio provides our customers with opportunities for competitive advantage and profitable growth.

DSM’s Animal Nutrition and Health Business therefore today focuses on six platforms for sustainable animal production. These are: tackling antimicrobial resistance; reducing our reliance on marine resources; reducing livestock emissions; making efficient use of natural resources; producing safe, quality nutrition with less food loss and waste; and improving animal performance over the lifetime.

DSM offers breakthrough solutions in many areas – from eubiotics as effective alternatives to AGPs through algae-based omega-3 to reduce the aquaculture industry’s reliance on finite marine resources to enzymes to improve the digestibility and utilization of multiple feed ingredients. We shall be sharing more detail on the sustainability aspects our unique Animal Nutrition and Health portfolio on DSM Feed Talks in the coming months.

Science-based animal nutrition solutions

DSM exists to create brighter lives for all. This starts with our customers, without whom we would not have a business. We offer them the world’s most comprehensive, science-based animal nutrition solutions, intelligently scaled to solve the sustainability and commercial challenges we all face in transforming the way we feed the world.

The world needs new pathways in sustainable animal protein, and DSM is at the forefront of that quest.

Published on

12 May 2019


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About the Author

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.


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