Exploring challenges and opportunities of feed additives to tackle climate change and pollution


On the occasion of the launch of the new guidelines on feed additives, the FAO’s Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance (FAO LEAP) Partnership recently organized a webinar, Innovation to tackle climate change. Generating facts about feed additives and livestock production. The virtual event was an opportunity for stakeholders to learn more about the publication and ways to generate evidence and share knowledge for more sustainable livestock systems.

“Even if innovation already plays a role in food systems, we need to assess both benefits and unintended consequences when using additives to inform decision making with evidence,” stated Ms. Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, in her opening remarks. “The normative work developed by the FAO LEAP Partnership is crucial to distinguish facts from misleading information,” she added.

Pablo Frère, the FAO LEAP Chairperson 2020, stressed the key role that partnerships play in stepping up joint efforts and making the livestock sector more sustainable. “It is important to highlight the work carried out by multi-stakeholder platforms. As such, they represent the opinion of the wide array of actors involved in the different sectors working together towards greater sustainability,” he said.

The webinar also featured Member States. H.E. Carlos María Uriarte, Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries of Uruguay; and H.E. Charlie McConalogue, Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine of Ireland, briefed what each country is doing to support key initiatives such as FAO LEAP in combating climate change through innovation and better farming practices.

Following, the keynote presentations by Chaouki Benchaar and Ermias Kebreab, FAO LEAP Feed Additives Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Co-chair and Chair, gave an overview of feed additives and introduced the guidelines. A panel enriched the event with various stakeholders discussing the challenges and opportunities in using feed additives to tackle climate change and pollution.

The event delivered valuable insights into the benefits that the sector can bring by using feed additives as bold climate action and how the FAO LEAP guidelines can help estimate the environmental burdens and benefits from their use in livestock production. “These guidelines allow capturing the environmental impacts of the production of feed additives and their potential benefits while assessing the greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions of the livestock sector”, noted in his closing remarks Mr. Henning Steinfeld, Chief at FAO’s Livestock Information, Sector Analysis and Policy Branch.

Watch the recording


Key messages

  • While it currently represents a major pillar for food security, ecosystem services and GDP in many countries, livestock is also a major user of resources and a significant contributor to environmental impacts such as climate change, acidification, eutrophication and biodiversity loss, while posing a threat to human health.
  • In the context of environmental challenges such as climate change and increasing competition for natural resources, the projected growth of the livestock sector in the coming decades, led by the increasing demand for animal products, places significant pressure on livestock stakeholders to adopt low-carbon, eco-friendly management  practices.
  • A central role of animal-sourced proteins in sustainable diets can only be secured in the next decades through better environmental management of livestock production and innovation in animal feeding.
  • By reducing both emissions intensity and resources demand, the sector can cope with the demand for livestock products by a growing population, with the exacerbated competition for resources with other sectors, and with ambitious reduction targets in greenhouse gases emissions.
  • The use of feed additives is often proposed innovation in animal health and productivity, also having remarkable environmental co-benefits, including increase of nutrients absorption, reduction of methane emissions from enteric fermentation, and cutting nutrients emissions from management and deposition of manure. 
  • Animal feeding plays an important role in the global food production and it is the largest and it is crucial to ensure the sustainable production of safe and affordable animal proteins. Feed is an integral part of the food chain and its safety has been recognized as a shared value and a shared responsibility.
  • The sustainability of animal diets is crucial for the sustainable increase of livestock productivity, which is key to meeting the large, current and future, demand for livestock products.
  • Given the importance of feed additives and the need to provide evidence in support of policies on sustainable livestock production, the FAO LEAP Partnership has developed technical guidelines to assess the environmental impacts associated with the production of feed additives; and the effects of the use of feed additives on the environmental impacts of livestock systems.
  • The FAO LEAP guidelines on feed additives are complementary to environmental risk assessment methodologies and enable the assessment of environmental impacts through a science-based, multi-criteria approach based on a life cycle assessment framework.
  • The guidelines allow the evaluation of synergies and tradeoffs when working on livestock sector policies and management in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The guidelines are also relevant to enhancing climate action in the context of the Paris Agreement.
  • The diversity and complexity of livestock farming systems, products, and stakeholders can only be matched by the willingness of the sector’s practitioners to work together to improve the sectoral environmental footprint. FAO LEAP provides the essential backbone of robust measurement methods to enable assessment, understanding and improvement of production practices.