Are we feeding soybeans to livestock in Sweden? Do we import soy from areas where rainforests are being cleared to make way for soy plantations? In search for answers, our intern Sebastian made a phone call to Mikaela Patel at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
What is your role at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)?
– Researcher and postdoctoral at the Department of Animal Nutrition and Management. I’m interested in animal husbandry, day-to-day-care and the feeding of livestock. I aim to make sure that cattle raised as livestock for meat, or as dairy animals, are well taken care of, and that their diet consists of a combination of feeds to provide everything they need for their health, welfare and production.
First of all, you got the questions in advance. Looking at it from your perspective, are they relevant?
– Yes, many consumers don’t know what they’re buying. In Sweden, as compared to many other countries, the rules are pretty strict when it comes to animal source foods. There’s a big difference between the Swedish meat industry and, let’s say, the American or South-American.
In order to feed livestock, do Swedish farmers use soy from areas where rainforests are being cleared to make way for soy plantations?
– The soy industry has grown enormously over the past 50 years, and yes, soy is produced in areas where rainforests are being destroyed. They are cleared for grazing land for cattle, and to make way for soy plantations. But, environmental organizations have grown, and Swedish farmers and agricultural organizations have agreed to start using certified soy, and nothing else. So, I guess my answer is both yes and no. Of course, the soybeans were produced in areas where rainforests are being destroyed. But at the same time, Swedish farmers use certified soy, which assures that it was originated from a process that is environmentally correct and socially adequate.
In what part of the world is the Swedish soy produced?
– Mainly Brazil. But a lot of the KRAV-certified soy is produced in Italy.
And there are both certified and uncertified plantations in Brazil?
– Yes, that’s right. There are two types of certifications: Round table on responsible soy is the most common one. And ProTerra, they only certify GMO-free soy.
Does this mean that all the soy we have here in Sweden is certified with one of these two labels?
– Yes. And in Sweden, we’re not allowed to use GMO soybeans. Some of the largest companies in the Swedish food industry have agreed to stop using GMO products. In Sweden, the fight against GMO is on.
In other words, all of the soy imported to Sweden is certified?
– That’s correct. Swedish meat is supposed to be okay.
But if meat comes from another country, there are no guarantees?
– No, exactly. And remember, many Swedish farmers try to cut back on the use of soy, and instead use domestically produced animal feed. In the dairy cattle industry, approximately five percent of the ration consists of soy. Pigs and poultry, on the other hand, have a higher percentage of soy in their diets. Because they are non-ruminants and unable to digest the cellulose in grass and other forages, they have different dietary needs.
Serial about soy (part 1): Serial about soy.
Serial about soy (part 2): Serial about soy (part 2).
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