The Institute for Feed Education & Research (IFEEDER) was founded in 2009 with the goal of supporting initiatives that ensure a safe, healthy and sustainable food supply. Established by the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), IFEEDER focuses on two primary missions:
- Funding critical animal feed and pet food research to support AFIA’s legislative and
- regulatory positions
- Developing appropriate messaging to policymakers, consumer influencers and stakeholders, which highlights the industry’s contributions to the availability of safe, wholesome and affordable food and preservation of our natural resources.
Since it’s conception, IFEEDER has worked diligently toward those missions. In honor of its 10th anniversary, IFEEDER has compiled a list of its top 10 accomplishments, and Robert Cooper, executive director of IFEEDER, sat down to discuss the list with Feed & Grain.
Benchmarking global animal food industry’s environmental impact
IFEEDER is working with the Global Feed LCA Institute (GFLI) in creating regional databases using data on the environmental impact of feeding livestock and poultry. The data is from a life-cycle analysis (LCA) methodology for feed, developed under the Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance (LEAP) partnership.
“With the negative press about the environmental impact of animal agriculture, we wanted to work toward helping the feed industry develop a consistent methodology that could be used to document the actual environmental impact,” explains Cooper. “We want to make sure the public understands the care and concern that the industry puts into raising animal livestock and poultry, as well as build public trust in what we’re doing, and continue to provide quality products for animals’ diets and good outcomes for the environment.”
Development of a literature search and tool for FSMA hazard analysis
IFEEDER — along with 50% funding from the National Grain and Feed Foundation — worked with the University of Minnesota to create a generic hazard analysis resource. Animal feed manufacturing facilities can use it as a tool in shaping their animal food safety plans, saving them both money and human resources.
“Estimates have shown that the Food Safety Modernization Act’s proposed cost for the animal food rule is expected to near $1 billion annually for the collective feed industry,” says Cooper. “That’s a huge cost for manufacturers. IFEEDER funded a study compiling the scientific literature regarding hazards and developed a tool for use by facilities so every firm did not need to pay for such work. This saves facilities from having to spend additional money to comply with the FSMA regulations because there’s already so much involved with that.”
Assessing the effect of lengthy regulatory reviews on new ingredients
“IFEEDER funded a study that looked at the Food and Drug Administration’s ingredient approval process,” says Cooper. “The approval process is bureaucratic, cumbersome and costly to our members.”
The in-depth survey on the ingredient approval process showed that the industry spends an average of $600,000 per product on approval costs. In all, a firm loses on average $1.75 million annually for each year of delay due to approval process inefficiencies and changes.
“We were able to gather that data, put it together and arm AFIA folks so they can visit with regulators and talk about how the current process is cumbersome, the impact that it’s having, and help develop solutions that would streamline it,” says Cooper.
PEDv outbreak preparation
“IFEEDER wants to make sure the industry is out in front of potential issues that could happen here in the United States,” says Cooper. “One of them was the potential for a PEDv outbreak.”
The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus had a devastating effect on the pork industry in 2013-14 and the animal food industry is on guard to ensure other animal diseases do not make it to the United States. IFEEDER partnered with the National Pork Board and other groups three years ago to fund research into the virology, pathology and modes of transmission of the PED virus.
“The research has helped us figure out what are some of the action items that we can do now to make sure that if there were another outbreak of this nature in the United States that we would be more prepared to respond and deal with it,” says Cooper. “We will continue to fund these sort of research projects, like our current work on virus survivability in feed ingredients.”
Animal food consumption report
In 2017, IFEEDER commissioned two studies, the first of which quantified the total amount of food consumed by the top nine livestock, poultry and aquaculture species. It found that in 2016, approximately 236.3 million tons of animal food was fed to the nine species in the study.
“The animal consumption report is groundbreaking work for IFEEDER,” explains Cooper. “We had estimated the consumption in the past, but now we have thorough research to understand what the true impact is for the nation.”
The industry’s economic impact
The second study was on the animal food manufacturing industries’ impact on the U.S. economy.
The study found that in 2016, the industry had $297.1 billion in sales, including roughly $102 billion in value-added contributions. It also paid over $22.5 billion in local, state and national taxes and helped support 944,000 jobs.
“It is wonderful information we can use to showcase how robust an industry we are, and the true economic value that we have to the economy in each state,” explains Cooper. “We’re going to update the numbers every couple years and are also taking the opportunity to put together an RFP for a pet food production and ingredient study.”
Promoting the EMC Scholars Program
“IFEEDER has a long relationship with the AFIA Equipment Manufacturers Committee,” says Cooper. “One of their missions is identifying future leadership for the industry and building talent. One way they do that is through scholarships. We help invest those earnings and award those scholarships.”
The EMC Scholarship Fund has been awarded to students annually at Kansas State University, North Carolina State University, North Dakota State University and California Polytechnic State University.
Supporting the Kenny Berg Research and Education Fund
IFEEDER and AFIA’s Liquid Feed Committee have worked together to foster the positive image of liquid feed as a vehicle for nutrient supplementation via the Kenny Berg Research and Education Fund.
“Over the course of the last 10 years, we’ve been able to conduct more than 15 different research projects to advance the liquid feed industry,” says Cooper. “We hope that we’re helping them to expand and improve on the use of liquid feed supplements in the beef and dairy industries.”
Understanding consumer choice
“One of our main goals is to do work around education,” says Cooper. “That often takes the form of really trying to understand consumer and consumer choice better. Hopefully by better understanding consumer preferences and their impacts on the animal food industry, we help maintain our sustainability, grow consumer trust, and add to the overall economic benefit of everyone involved.”
To understand consumer views on cage-free eggs and slow growth poultry, IFEEDER funded a study to research consumers’ beliefs, knowledge and willingness to pay a premium for these production practices. By studying emerging consumer trends, IFEEDER hopes to help the industry better strategize and react to coming trends.
Building industry support
“IFEEDER is 10 years old this year,” says Cooper. “In that time, we’ve grown to be an almost $4 million organization. We’re also approaching $1.5 million in support of research and education projects.”
In its history, IFEEDER has been extremely responsible with how it uses donations. For every $1 raised, an additional $5 is leveraged from other sources, and 100% of donations received go on to support one of its projects.
“Over the past 10 years, IFEEDER has had almost 300 donors,” explains Cooper. “We hope that the next 10 will see us triple or quadruple that number, as we are doing much more to share the industry’s great sustainability story and its tremendous economic impact.” ■