Good Earth

Livestock and dairy supply chains move towards sustainability

03:13 SGT September 11, 2017
Rising consumption of poultry is good for the industry but equally damaging to the environment and animals

The growth in consumption of meat in Asia is slowly becoming a parameter of its progress and an indicator of the region’s growing prosperity. China alone is the second-largest poultry producer in the world and its poultry industry production has increased 10-fold between 1985 and 2014 to meet domestic and global demands. The large population is a great boost to consumption within China too, although it is still about one-fourth of US consumption. But China alone is expected to consume nearly a quarter of the world’s chicken in the next decade.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data, Asia’s appetite for meat is predicted to swell by 19% between 2013 and 2025. While the growth is beneficial for the poultry manufacturing and allied industries, it is rife with environmental and social abuses.

In 2014, Chinese poultry production reached 17.5 million tonnes, a 10-fold increase from 1985, and is expected to reach 20 million tonnes by 2020.


A report called Factory Farming in Asia: Assessing the investment risks from Singapore-based consultancy Asia Research and Engagement and investor network Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR), warned that Asia’s meat, seafood and dairy industries are facing potential risks such as food safety, the misuse of antibiotics, high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and animal mistreatment that will indefinitely affect economic returns, in spite of the growth in demand.

Food safety surrounding meat products in China adversely affect multinational food giants such as Yum! Brands. McDonald’s and KFC faced a US$10.8-billion loss of market capitalisation due to the expired meat scandal in China.

Growing competition from healthier and relatively safer vegan and vegetarian products is further compelling the Asian meat and dairy industry to iron out the environmental and food safety challenges. The acquisition of meat substitute producer Quorn Foods by Philippine food company Monde Nissin in 2015 is one encouraging sign for the meat alternatives sector which is predicted to grow to $5.2 billion by 2020.

The report said that the environmental footprint of the meat industry deters consumerism. Even the least carbon-intensive meat — chicken — generates 65 times more emissions per calorie than legumes.

In New Zealand, effluent discharge from one of the world’s largest milk is straining local waterways, and in China, livestock produces 243 million tonnes of faeces and 163 million tonnes of urine a year. Animal cruelty cases are not uncommon in countries such as Vietnam, while labour exploitation in Thailand’s seafood industry is becoming a cause of concern for regulators too.

Livestock feed contributes more than half of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to the resource-intensive production, about 20% of meat thus produced is never consumed. It is essentially lost or wasted along the supply chain, from the farm to the consumer.

Even the least carbon-intensive meat — chicken — generates 65 times more emissions per calorie than legumes.


Increased scrutiny and social responsibility goals have led food manufacturers handling meat, dairy and seafood to rethink their supply chains. Collectively, stakeholders in the value chain — farmers, factory owners, retailers and consumers — have a role to play in conserving the environment by reducing food product loss and waste.

A project led by Sealed Air and World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-USA, in collaboration with WWF-China and the China Chain Store & Franchise Association (CCFA), and supported by the Institute of Agricultural Economics and Development and Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, has issued a guide defining, recommending and piloting global best practices for packaging, storing and retail distribution of fresh poultry products in China. Done as a part of China Food Security Project, the collective aim is to curb loss and waste in the poultry supply chain.

This Best Management Practice (BMP) Guide outlines practices for quality control, safety risk mitigation and waste reduction for processing chicken and chicken products sold in supermarkets, that is, the poultry supply chain from slaughter to sale.

Products considered in this guide are packaged and unpackaged raw poultry products intended for human consumption. The guidelines are reviewed by experts in China and the US, and comply with global safety standards. They are intended for poultry-processing facilities and retail sector managers, as well as government regulators.

Started in 2014, the China Food Security Project surveyed every step of the supply chain, the various poultry circulation models such as wet markets versus supermarkets, and the key entities involved. It singled out the potential risks that would impact the quality and safety of poultry products.

Thus, the project identified opportunities to standardize the processes and specifications for slaughtering, storage and distribution, and to establish higher standards on quality and risk control, including a traceability system to track poultry throughout the supply chain.

Another key programme milestone of the project is the Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) report, which showed that more than half of the greenhouse gas emissions are associated with feed alone. It also found that chilled packaged chicken generally showed a lower environmental impact than unpackaged chicken that needs to be frozen, due to lower energy requirements for chilling and longer shelf life. Today, 80% of the poultry purchased by Chinese consumers is unpackaged. At retail outlets, waste reaches as high as 15%.

By optimizing distribution and retail processes, North American and European markets keep waste level at 6%. Overall, the report confirmed that moving to a supply chain in China which incorporates improved farm processes, packaging and cold-chain methods has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20%.

Chilled packaged chicken generally showed a
lower environmental impact than unpackaged
chicken that needs to be frozen, due to lower energy
requirements for chilling and longer shelf life.

After studying the consumer markets in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing, Sealed Air also realised the potential to drive consumer buying behaviour with respect to poultry and is now developing sustainable packaging solutions for its customers to achieve sustainability goals and, in turn, address environmental challenges.


FrieslandCampina’s meticulous approach to providing high-quality and safe products, as well as supporting dairy development across Asia, bagged the company the award for the most sustainable supply chain at the Sustainable Business Awards (SBA) Singapore 2017.

FrieslandCampina has a single approach to guarantee the safety and quality of the entire chain, from the farm right through to distribution called Foqus. Its Foqus Food Safety and Quality programme invests in knowledge and training to guarantee high food safety standards. At the same time, its Dairy Development Programme trains thousands of smallholder dairy farmers every year in improving the quality and safety of milk production in their farms.

The combination of these programmes ensures every step in FrieslandCampina’s supply chain contributes to the company’s goal of producing sustainable and nutritious food for consumers worldwide.

Although a slow start, sustainable supply chains are the need of the hour and many others such as Nestlé too are jumping on the bandwagon to help the environment, one step at a time.