The 3 pillars of sustainability have been identified as environmental, economic and social. These are the areas that Aviagen supports in order to help create a sustainable future for the global poultry industry. This article will represent the first in a 3-part series highlighting each of these pillars and underlining our “Breeding Sustainability” theme. Here we will focus on the Environmental Pillar. According to the International Poultry Council (IPC) the poultry meat sector can make a difference in the world’s environmental impact through the sustainable management and efficient use of resources.
At Aviagen, “Breeding Sustainability” forms the cornerstone of our business. As a primary breeding company we have a responsibility to increase poultry productivity to sustain a rising population, whilst at the same time protecting our planet and enhancing bird health and welfare. This is a responsibility we take seriously and through a balanced breeding approach we provide birds with the best possible production efficiency that help to sustain the earth for current and future generations, and also enable our customers – the world’s poultry producers – feed their expanding communities with a healthy, affordable source of protein.
Chicken: A planet-friendly food
The United Nations predicts our global population will reach 9.7 billion by the year 2050, causing a 59% to 98% increase in food demand. Members of the food supply chain have the responsibility to think of innovative ways to fulfil a growing demand in a way that does not harm our environment, as food production accounts for about a quarter of total carbon emissions globally, and has been identified as one of the key industries impacting global warming.
To meet the dietary protein needs of a growing population, chickens present a low carbon-footprint solution. Chickens are gentle on the environment and are credited by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in a 2013 report with the lowest environmental emission of all livestock. Adding to this environmental friendliness, over the past decades Aviagen has worked hard to minimise the ecological footprint even further.
Aviagen India facilities. Photo: Aviagen
Reducing our carbon footprint – the FCR advantage
Due to our balanced breeding approach, we have succeeded in improving the Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR), or the rate at which feed converts to body weight, whilst also substantially enhancing bird welfare. Improving biological efficiency through reducing FCR has the greatest contribution to the reduction in carbon footprint of poultry production. Greater feed efficiency means birds absorb the nutrients they get from their feed better, therefore excreting less waste and potential environmental pollutants. For example, in the last 15 years, FCR improvements resulted in a 20% reduction in pollution (in the form of nitrate and phosphate) being released into the world’s land and water resources, and a 15% decrease in greenhouse gases.
Another green advantage lies in efficient land use. As our global population rises, agricultural land will become scarcer. With an improvement of FCR, less land will be needed to grow the crops to feed the same number of birds. Globally, the average annual improvements in FCR over the 15-year-period equates to 2 points in FCR (0.02kg feed less per kg live bird produced) per year which is a land saving of about 0.656 million hectares per year – a land mass that is 2.7 times the size of Luxemburg. Additionally, with less feed production, fewer trucks are required for transportation, also cutting fuel costs and environmental impact of transport.
Furthermore, improved growth rate leads to shorter grow-out times and thus a 10% decrease in the number of poultry houses to grow the same number of birds. These factors equate to a 16% lower energy use.
Finally, due to the direct relationship between feed and water intake, FCR improvement results in greater efficiency in the use of water. As a concrete example, a 2.5-kilogram broiler now requires 1 litre less water than 15 years ago. This also means a bird that creates drier litter and has better welfare characteristics in the form of better foot pad health.
The green choice for today and tomorrow
Poultry’s modest resource consumption and carbon emissions, coupled with Aviagen’s innovative balanced breeding, allow the poultry supply chain to respond more effectively to the world’s rising food demands while protecting our planet. By ‘Breeding Sustainability’, we are making continuous progress toward combatting climate change, preserving our planet for today and for generations to come.