Sustainable Protein Is More Important Than Ever

The Lempert Report: The growing need for greener and more accessible sustenance was heatedly discussed at GreenBiz 18

GreenBiz 18 took place in Phoenix in early February. Sustainability leaders from the world’s largest companies gather each year at the GreenBiz forum to explore pressing challenges and emerging opportunities in sustainable businesses.

The event offers a rich blend of presentations, workshops and networking opportunities framed by the State of Green Business report, GreenBiz Group’s award-winning annual research report, which analyzes key sustainability metrics and trends. Attendees returned from GreenBiz both inspired by what’s possible and ready to tackle their organizations’ greatest sustainability challenges.

One of the most heated discussions was about protein. A question that the Protein Challenge group is focused on is: As we approach the 9 billion global population mark in 2040, how will we feed people enough protein in a way that's affordable, healthy and good for the planet? 

We have already seen a substantial effort to use more plant proteins. In fact, at the SFA's recent Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, it was clear that everyone was talking about it and wanting to develop more such foods. 

GreenBiz points out in a blog post that when consumers do eat meat, fish and dairy as part of a diverse diet, they need to make sure they are produced in the most sustainable way possible. Central to this is what we feed our livestock and fish. Animal feed, they say, is a vital yet unseen input to the food industry that has significant implications for environmental health and food security, but yet is rarely talked about. We use precious resources such as land, water and energy to rear animals. Forty-five percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production are related to feed production and processing.

About half of global agricultural land is used for feeding animals, and more than a fifth of wild-caught fish is fed to animals. In many countries, livestock production is accelerating deforestation and biodiversity loss, as well as water scarcity: Irrigation of feed crops consumes 12% of global groundwater and surface water.

The perception that protein equals meat continues to be a barrier. A new report from the Protein Challenge group, "The Feed Behind Our Food," is a call for retailers and the foodservice industry to recognize the vital role they have, as trusted intermediaries with consumers, to accelerate progress on sustainable animal feed by collaborating more with their supply chain, from producers and manufacturers to innovators and feed companies. It is an articulate shared set of criteria for what sustainable animal feed looks like.


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