Responsible food production is seen as the key to sustainability

The British pig industry needs to deliver on product affordability, quality, responsibility and safety if it’s to achieve a sustainable future says ABN pig nutritionist, Dr Steven Jagger.

“Now, more than ever, customers and shareholders expect companies to act sustainably, especially those involved in the food chain,” he told a recent meeting of the British Society of Animal Science (BSAS). “To meet such consumer needs, of course, we need to know what’s involved and how to achieve our (sustainability) goals.”

Rejecting other somewhat cumbersome definitions of sustainability, Dr Jagger (pictured above) said he believed that “responsible food production” is a more realistic interpretation of the meaning of sustainability than some which have been used in the past.

“A holistic approach aims to connect four different goals; product affordability, quality, responsibility and safety into product development and food production,” he said, “and we must ensure that we deliver on each of these aspects to achieve a sustainable future.”

On product affordability, he stressed the need for British pork producers to be competitive, a challenge which meant considering how to maximise efficiency to produce a cost effective end product.

“Looking at the efficiency of nutrient utilisation and how animals respond, for example, can help us to understand how to formulate feeds for high performance at a minimal cost,” he said. “This can be influenced by the genotype, general health and growth stage of animals. The more accurately the nutrients are balanced to compliment these factors, the more sustainable the system will be.”

On quality, he highlighted the need to give consumers a good eating experience, making them more likely to want to eat the product again. This might include looking at dietary components, such as vitamin D, which can affect meat tenderness.

He also urged his audience to consider the potential sustainability benefits which might be attached to the future use of precise feeding.

“Current, on-going research is looking into how pigs can be fed as individuals, with nutrition tailored to each animal for precise feeding that will help increase efficiency and sustainability,” he said. “We may not be far off from precision feeding becoming a reality within the industry.”

Even so, he concluded, it will still be vital that all four aspects of the holistic approach to pigmeat production are factored in to ensure maximum sustainability within the supply chain.

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