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11-07-2016

ForFarmers makes progress with soy-free feed

ForFarmers, the European animal feed industry market leader, is making progress in developing animal feed with less, or even no soy. This is in line with ForFarmers’ sustainability approach and societal concerns about the environmental impact of certain raw materials. Research by ForFarmers has shown that, in principle, producing soy-free feeds is possible. The use of alternative raw materials is required to ensure that animal performance and health is maintained at the same levels. Soy-free feeds are currently only being used on a limited scale for special, sustainable concepts.


Increasingly, consumers have a preference for products which are not only affordable, safe and of high quality, but also produced regionally and in a responsible manner. The feed industry in Europe currently relies, among other things, on imported sources of protein rich raw materials such as soy. In line with its sustainability objectives, ForFarmers is conducting research to develop soy-free or soy-less feed at an acceptable price and of equal or better performance than conventional feed. 


Based on the various different research projects conducted at both commercial farms and research institutes, ForFarmers has reached the conclusion that it is possible to develop soy-free feed for laying hens. Innovation Manager Albert Dijkslag explains: “Providing laying hens with a soy-free diet is possible; but alternative, more expensive, sources of protein are needed in order for the animals to maintain the same performance levels. This research, as well as experience already gained in this field, has already allowed us to successfully produce soy-free feeds for this sector.”


With respect to broilers the challenge is much greater, as broilers require higher levels of quality protein than laying hens. “Although we have managed to formulate soy-free diets which will achieve the same performance levels by using the correct alternative raw materials, further research into the exact replacement sources of protein is still required”, according to feed expert Theo Schamp. 


ForFarmers is also looking into the possibilities to develop soy-free feeds in pig production systems for specific, retail concepts. Dairy, beef and sheep producers can compile soy-free diets by growing more protein-rich roughage themselves and supplementing this with soy-free sources of protein. 


For the use of soy-free diets to be expanded, a different integral approach is needed within the total feed chain, which takes into account the higher feed costs and other disadvantages such as higher phosphate emissions, a larger CO2 footprint and the fact that more land is required to grow the raw materials. Therefore, it is not anticipated that soy-free feeds will be produced or used on a large scale in the short term and so the current focus is on responsible sourcing of soy. ForFarmers is, however, moving forward with its research to develop feeds which exclude soy and is actively working together with chain partners in their search for solutions to these market concepts. The next steps in this research are therefore aimed at mitigating the current disadvantages, as ForFarmers is determined to continue to find ways to make food production more sustainable.