EUROPE – European Union experts in Brussels questioned why the volume of former foodstuffs processed into animal feed in Europe hasn’t increased over the past decade during a panel debate last week.

The European Former Foodstuff Processors Association (EFFPA) reported that the sector’s turnover reached over €1 (approximately US$1.1) billion in 2020, highlighting its potential to generate feed for farm animals from unavoidable and unintended food losses at food manufacturing and retail levels. 

Typical examples include bread, breakfast cereals, biscuits, and confectionery, high-energy animal feed ingredients.

Alexander Romme, president of EFFPA and purchasing director at FeedValid, emphasized the sustainability of these raw feed materials, noting their role in preventing food waste and their exceptionally low carbon footprint. 

He presented case studies from the Netherlands that demonstrated how circular and sustainable feeding concepts linking farmers and retailers could support food waste reduction. 

Despite these benefits, Ruud Tijssens, chairperson of the International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF), questioned why the volumes of former foodstuffs produced in the EU have remained static since 2015. 

Romme suggested that innovation in feed formulation and industry perspectives are essential for growth, while an audience member cited a lack of profitability and price competition with conventional feed ingredients as major barriers. 

Additionally, the biogas sector’s increasing use of food losses was noted as a factor in the sluggish growth of the former foodstuffs sector.

The EU generates nearly 57 million tons of food waste annually, and the European Parliament aims to introduce legally binding targets to reduce food waste by 2030. Despite these efforts, only 5% of the 100 million tons of food loss and waste (FLW) generated in the EU is currently utilized in animal feed. 

A study by Boumans et al. highlighted that a significant portion of FLW, estimated at 88 million tons per year, remains unutilized in livestock feed or biobased products. Most of this waste originates from household consumption, food processing and packaging. 

With the rendering industry in the EU wasting about 18 million tons of animal meat and fat annually, only 13.9% of this is processed into pet food and animal feed. 

Anton van den Brink, deputy secretary general of FEFAC, acknowledged that the former foodstuffs sector faces competition within the bioeconomy, emphasizing enhanced collaboration and innovation to address these challenges and boost circularity in the EU feed and livestock chain.

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