Together with a chain-wide consortium of innovative companies and organizations, Wageningen University & Research has started a study for the use of composite residual flows from food service and retail as a raw material for animal feed (Eco-feed) in order to prevent food waste. This RENEW project is a unique public-private partnership between animal feed producers, environmental and animal welfare organizations, catering companies and science.
In the Netherlands about 1.7 to 2.6 billion kilos of food is wasted annually. To prevent this waste, the Dutch government has committed itself to the goal of the European “Farm to Fork” Strategy to reduce food waste by half in 2030 compared to 2015. To realise this goal, the use of residue streams for animal feed is high on the list of priorities.
But this is easier said than done. The Samen Tegen Voedselverspilling foundation, which encompasses and accelerates all of the important initiatives against food waste in the Netherlands, is also a partner of RENEW. The project’s coordinator is NEVEDI, the branch organisation of the animal feed industry. “NEVEDI wants to look for what is needed and what can be done with these residue streams,” said Frank Gort of NEVEDI. “But it has to happen safely, and markets both at home and abroad will need to accept the use of residue streams. Together with chain partners, we have to examine all of the options and consequences. With its expertise, Wageningen is the connector and is studying what the results might be.”
Hilke Bos-Brouwers, lead scientist at WUR added: “A lot of residue streams, such as potato peelings, bread and draff, are already being used for animal feed. These streams are characterised by constant quality and relative certainty about available volumes. And the price is low. We, on the other hand, are focusing on the complex, composite residue streams from the catering industry and retail. These might also contain animal products. What has to be done to make them suitable for chickens and pigs? And under what conditions is that acceptable to consumers and companies in the chain? How much environmental gain can be made and how would it contribute to animal welfare in the sector?”
Being able, willing and allowed
After a ban of more than 20 years on the use of food residue that might contain animal by-products for animal feed, both the chain and the government are hesitant to expand the possibilities. But successfully implementing Eco-feed concepts goes beyond simple process-technology issues and concerns about the safety of animal feed and food. RENEW wants to contribute to Being Able, Being Allowed en Being Willing to use these residue streams in the Netherlands and Europe. “We are building on research that shows that these residue streams can be used safely, for example the EU project REFRESH, the PPS Veilig gebruik van reststromen and Natuur en Milieu’s project Circulair Varken” said Bos-Brouwers.
During RENEW, private parties such as Nijsen Company, Avined, Kipster, Hamletz – free-range meat from Annechien, and Vermaat are going to develop at least two new chain concepts for Eco-feed applications. All of the obstacles and opportunities involved will be studied for future consideration. The partners Dierenbescherming and Natuur & Milieu will ensure that animal welfare aspects will explicitly be included in these new concepts. One of the most important components of the project is making positive business cases for all parties. Bos-Brouwers: “Being made sustainable also has to be economically attractive, so we are looking at possible ways to scale up: the circular use of these ‘difficult’ residue streams will be the new normal. There’s growing interest, also in Europe. Even more companies can join this movement: it’s going to happen now.”