Animal Feed FAQs

What is the meaning of ‘animal feed’? Factory farming depends on a global trade in unsustainable animal feed crops. Without largescale imports of crops to feed farmed animals, it would not be possible to produce billions of animals each year at the cheapest possible cost.
What is protein feed? The special dietary needs of factory farmed animals bred for profit drive the global trade in destructive animal feed. Sourcing of high-quality, high-protein diets for large numbers of high-productivity animals is not possible from pasture or within local economies.
Is soy grown to feed animals? Yes, soy is the most traded animal feed crop due to its high protein and energy content. More than three-quarters (77%) of global soy is fed to livestock for meat and dairy production. Most of the rest is used for biofuels, industry, or vegetable oils, with just 7% used directly for human food products.
Is maize grown to feed animals? Global maize (corn) production is projected to grow by 193 million tons to 1,315 million tons over the next decade. The largest increases are likely to be in China, the US, Brazil, and Argentina. The top exporters of maize are the US, Brazil, Argentina, and Russia. The top destinations for maize are Mexico, the EU, Japan, Egypt, and Korea.
What other types of animal feed? Fishmeal and fish oil Fishmeal and fish oil is mainly used as an ingredient in animal feed for aquaculture and agriculture. Almost one-fifth of the world’s annual wild fish catch is taken out of the ocean for fishmeal. Roughly one-third of fishmeal goes to the land-based agricultural sector (5% to chickens, 23% to pigs). Since the early 2000s, aquaculture became the dominant user of ‘reduction fisheries’ which supply fish for fishmeal and oil rather than for direct human consumption. Around 6-7 million tons of fishmeal is produced each year. Global demand for fishmeal is mainly driven by China’s huge aquaculture sector, but fish produced for large export volumes are also significant consumers.
How is animal feed supplied across the world? Animal feed crops, particularly soy, are traded on the global commodity market. There are key global production hotspots, particularly in the Americas. Soy is grown, then crushed, traded domestically and internationally, processed into animal feed, and shipped to factory farms to feed animals. There are a small number of highly profitable companies involved in crushing and trading commodity crops globally.
What affect does growing animal feed have on the environment? Habitat loss is the greatest threat to the world’s biodiversity and agriculture is its single largest cause. Nearly 80% of agricultural land is used for livestock production, including the growth of crops for animal feed. Huge quantities of pesticides are used on animal feed crops, harming water courses, local community health and wild animals. As the number of factory farms increases, so does the destruction of natural habitats to meet the demand for vast quantities of animal feed. Clearing land to grow crops to feed farmed animals is now one of the biggest threats to some of the world's most valuable and vulnerable places, including the Amazon, Cerrado, Congo, Mekong, and Yangtze basins.
Does animal feed affect climate change? Greenhouse gas emissions from the production, processing, and transport of animal feed account for about 45% of agricultural emissions. The fertilisation of feed crops and deposition of manure on pastures represent about half of feed emissions (one-quarter of the sector’s overall emissions). Without fast and largescale downward shifts in global meat consumption, agriculture will consume the entire world's carbon budget necessary for keeping global temperature rises under 2°C by 2050. Factory farming worsens climate change, and climate impacts are felt disproportionately by small farmers. Adverse weather causes their crops to fail or their livestock to succumb to disease. Wild animals suffer agonising deaths from droughts, floods and fires at greater frequency and severity. Animals are less resilient to disease and habitat destruction from animal feed expansion, increasing the risk of disease spill over from animals to humans. There is a strong risk that intensive agriculture could trigger the next pandemic.
What can be done about reducing the production of animal feed? Factory farming drives the destructive trade in animal feed, causing animal suffering, habitat loss, climate change, human rights abuses and compromising people’s food security. There is nothing sustainable about a system that rests on destructive largescale animal feed production driven by the needs of cruel factory farming around the world. The solution is to end factory farming and to transition to a humane and sustainable food system. This would spell an end to the destructive global trade in largescale animal feed production that underwrites suffering of billions of factory farmed animals.