It’s a subject that has caused huge controversy over recent years: the use of palm oil in products - including food, hygiene products, cosmetics, and of course, animal feeds. In particular, its direct relationship with large-scale deforestation and loss of habitat, development on peat, and exploitation of local communities are huge concerns.
But despite, or rather fuelled by the controversy, Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients is passionate about the use of sustainably- and ethically sourced palm oil. Why? You might ask. And just how can it be sustainably and ethically produced? Just a couple of the questions we hope to tackle right here.
Why palm oil at all?
With the growing demands for livestock production, feed efficiency is under constant scrutiny. Feed fats are essential in meeting these production requirements, and Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients are determined that this shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of the environment, animal welfare, or global farming communities.
A few palm oil facts:
The yield provided by palm oil far exceeds any other oil source - including soya, rapeseed, or sunflower. Currently, oil palms are grown on approximately 7.49% of land devoted to vegetable oil crops, yet palm oil makes up 41.1% of all vegetable oil production (Oil World 2018) (1)
- Moving to alternative vegetable sources of fatty acids simply results in the problem being displaced and on a larger scale.
- 26 hectares of palm is required to produce one tonne of oil versus 2 hectares of soy to produce the same amount of oil. The production of soy in South America is equally, if not more controversial than palm oil.
- Palm oil provides a high economic value, with around 4.5 million Indonesians employed in the industry.
- Palm oil is extremely versatile – semi-solid at room temperature and more resistant to oxidation which gives it a longer shelf life. It is also highly palatable.
Why palm oil in animal feed?
With an energy density of some 2.5-times the concentration of cereal sources, feed fats are used in the diets of dairy cows, primarily as an extremely efficient energy supply.
Feed fats, unlike traditional cereal sources, have other huge benefits, including:
- Not adding to the acid load in the rumen, which enables energy density to be increased without the risk of acidosis and the resulting negative impact on productivity.
- Extremely efficient conversion to milk production: in the region of 80% as opposed to 60-65% of other energy sources.
- Reduction in the production of methane and thus benefits to the environment, as feed fats are not fermented in the rumen.
- They also improve cow fertility by stimulating the production of progesterone and increasing the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Palm oil provides a desirable fatty acid profile for the purpose of feed fats, making it the most economical and productive source.
Why sustainability and ethics are vital
The production of palm oil continues to come with many problems, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Palm oil production is still a major promoter of the destruction of some of the world’s most biodiverse forest habitats and the homes of already endangered species, including the Orangutan, pygmy elephant, and Sumatran rhino. Where habitats remain, they often become land-locked and create conflict between wildlife and farmer as wildlife strays into plantations.
With many of these forests established on carbon-rich peat soils, millions of tonnes of greenhouse gasses are being thrown out into the atmosphere and are contributing to climate change. Furthermore, forest fires – often started as a means of clearing land but getting wildly out of control, further add to pollution and unregulated deforestation.
Land grabbing by large organisations and the exploitation of local indigenous workers and child labour also remain a serious issue in some parts.
Addressing these issues is essential in creating a sustainable and ethical palm oil crop.
So how do we go about ensuring palm oil is both sustainably and ethically produced?
With all the benefits of palm oil in mind, working with communities involved in its production to create a sustainable source of palm oil is far more beneficial than boycotting and shutting an entire industry down.
In 2004, The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed to set best practices in the production and sourcing of palm oils. Both Volac and Wilmar International Limited (our joint venture partners) are members of the RSPO and Volac Wilmar sources palm oil products from Wilmar who have an industry-leading “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” (NPDE) policy, with which it expects and ensures suppliers are fully compliant.
Wilmar has recently issued a joint statement with ‘Aidenvironment’, detailing their new supplier monitoring and engagement programme and working closely with communities, NGOs, industry partners, and financial institutions ensures effective implementation of their NPDE policy.
This will help accelerate efforts to making the palm oil industry deforestation-free.
Our own Palm Oil Sustainability Policy for feed fats details our stance on the use, production, and sourcing of sustainable and ethical palm oil for use in our products.
Creating a conversation
Sustainability is far from a box-ticking trend for us here at Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients. We hope that through our strategies, actions, policies, and beliefs, we can create a more positive conversation around the use of palm oil as a sustainable and ethical source of feed fats and be instrumental in this vital change.
With this in mind, we love to celebrate other organisations stepping up to the mark – check out 8 of our favourites here >>>