In this episode of the Feed & Grain Podcast, Steven Kilger, the managing editor of Feed & Grain, interviews Lara Moody, the executive director of the Institute for Feed Education & Research (IFEEDER), about the next stages of IFEEDER's sustainability project and the organization's need for industry partners.
They also discussed IFEEDER's work with the World Wildlife Fund and how the animal food and pet food industry can collaborate with civil society organizations that share similar goals.
Steven Kilger (0:01)
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Feed & Grain Podcast. And thank you for listening. My name is Steven Kilger. I'm the managing editor of Feed & Grain and your host. We have a great show for you today. Lara Moody, executive director of the Institute for Feed Education & Research, also known as IFEEDER, stopped by to talk about the next stages in IFEEDER's sustainability project and how the organization needs industry partners for the project's next stage. We also talked about IFEEDER's work with the World Wildlife Fund and how the industry can work with civil society organizations with similar goals. It's always fun to talk with Lara, and I hope you guys enjoy our conversation as much as I did.
But before we get on to that, I've got a few bits of housekeeping to go over. If you're listening to the podcast within a podcast app, please consider subscribing. It would help us out a lot. If you have an idea for a topic you would like me to cover or someone within the animal feed, grain handling, or related industries you think would be a good interview. But we know this podcast page on feedandgrain.com has a button right under the title that will let you send me an email directly. I hope to hear from you soon. All right. That's all out of the way. So on to my talk with Lara.
Hi, Lara. Welcome to the Feed & Grain Podcast.
Lara Moody (1:13)
Hey, thanks for having me on, Steven.
Always a pleasure. So it's been about two months since we talked last. That was right around IPPE, and IFEEDER had just finished the first part of its Sustainability Roadmap project. And you just launched the Animal Food Industry Sustainability Toolkit. For anyone not familiar with the roadmap or the Toolkit can give us a quick, I guess, elevator pitch on what those projects are and how they came together.
Yes, IFEEDER spent the last year and a half putting together a roadmap for itself so that we can have a framework and guidance for supporting the animal feed and pet food industry sustainability efforts. So that's the roadmap element. It's the roadmap for the work that we're going to be pursuing going forward. But we also, along with it, launched the Toolkit. The Sustainability Toolkit was then really intended for use by animal food and pet food industry members to be able to start or advance their own sustainability journey. It has a set of resources within it that are indexed back to, we call it, the crawl, walk, run approach. So you know, getting started, kind of making progress, and then really advancing your journey in the sustainability space. The Toolkit is out there, and it's getting used by the industry, which is great.
Yeah, it sounds great. When you announced the project, I loved the idea because, as I'm sure you're aware of doing this, the level of ability to commit and level of commitment to sustainability in our industry is kind of all over the place, depending on the size of the company. So it's great that you have now provided this Toolkit for people of all sizes. What has the response to have been so far people been reaching out? If they like it? How's it gone? Yeah,
We've had a lot of interest in the Toolkit. It's definitely garnered an increase in the number of speaking requests and podcasts like this one, as well, as it's significantly driven traffic to the IFEEDER website. We know people are seeing it, and we know they're paying attention to it. I've appreciated some of the feedback that I've received. We kind of, on a continual basis, get the occasional thank you note from somebody who appreciates the fact that we're providing a toolkit for companies that may not have done anything yet, right? And they're small, and they don't have a significant set of resources to advance, so having the Toolkit has been helpful to them. Some of those folks have let us know that, so that's been great.
But we've also heard from folks that there's so much content in the Toolkit that it can be overwhelming on the first take. We've been working with the American Feed Industry Association and the communications team there to roll out the Toolkit also a little bit one at a time, right? We're looking at each of the different elements within the crawl, walk one section, and we're starting to take a deep dive into some of the individual elements within the Toolkit so that we can share those across a longer time period and give people the opportunity to take a look at one resource at a time versus seeing the whole collective of 25 resources. We've had great feedback, and we are continuing to think about what to add to it. We're continuing to go out and speak about the Toolkit to industry members or to provide support or guidance to them as they start their journeys.
Well, you've gotten feedback, which is I love our industry, but they're not always the most vocal people. People are at all different levels. It's encouraging to hear that you're listening to it and then you're accommodating that.
Yeah, we want to make sure they have a soft introduction to it right and can find their own place to start rather than getting overwhelmed. We don't want anybody to be overwhelmed with the effort.
Well, they always say that's one of the biggest barriers to entry right for anything is if you look at it, and you're like, Oh, this is just too much, then you just don't do it at all. And that's, that's not the way to the future. So I saw that you're starting on the second phase of your sustainability roadmap. You released a press release, I think, last month about it. What is next for the project?
We do a combination of efforts, right, with the first phase of the roadmap with the Feed Systems Sustainability Summit, which we co-hosted with World Wildlife Fund last year, and just the surveying that we did to kind of focus and identify where we needed to put some effort to kind of advance sustainability and provide greater support for the industry, we identified a set of objectives. I would say collectively, if you look at those objectives in one pitch, I would say our Phase Two work, which we're launching now and starting to get underway, would be collected to advance the role and recognition of animal food as a sustainability solution within the food supply chain. When we think about livestock production, you know, through the communications that we've seen on this lately, and is driven by all of the scope three work relative to greenhouse gas emissions that our downstream stakeholders are doing.
We have this identity now that feed can be 40% to 80%, of the footprint for animal agriculture, for the production of animal agriculture. We then have these downstream stakeholders that are like, oh, we need to focus on feed great, but then they oftentimes end up jumping right over the feed sector itself, and focusing on feedstuff production, or focusing on the crop that's being grown in the field.They're right, they're putting their efforts towards regenerative agriculture, which is about utilizing practices to either sequester carbon into the soil or to reduce runoff or things we think of as climate-smart practices, that's great, we absolutely need that.
But there's a lot of work that the animal feed and food sector does that should be considered an innovation or strategy, or practice that can also reduce the footprint of animal agriculture. We want to put more of a focus and help those downstream stakeholders understand the opportunities that exist with innovation in the feed space relative to reducing that footprint so that not all of the effort is focused on feedstuff production in the field. We think there's a place for both of them, and we think it's on us a little bit to be able to show them what the art of the possible is relative to innovations that the feed industry brings to help reduce that environmental footprint. Collectively, there are several projects that will be in that phase to work, but that's the desired outcome for it.
Yeah, that's interesting because they would argue that sustainability, well, it's been a topic for the public and for production agriculture for a long time. The feed industry has kind of gotten a pass on it just because not a lot of people know what the feed industry is. But sounds like now we're catching up. And there are a lot of improvements that the feed industry itself can make. And it's important that the kind of burden gets shared by everybody. It's not going to be a one-shot solution.
When you talk about the improvements that can occur in the feed industry, right? It's improvements in feed production itself. But it's also feed additives, or feed ingredients or innovations that we bring, that can improve the feed to gain, you know, the feed conversion ratio, or can improve the production efficiency. If we can do things like that, we can get an animal to market faster, and that means it's using less water, and it's emitting fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and its footprint is smaller. Those are the things that I think we have to get better about speaking to and getting our downstream stakeholders to understand. That's an important area of focus for us.
Not to sound crass, but that's going to end up being savings for you at the feed mill.
Well, that's exactly right. That's exactly right. So many times, people think that sustainability is people are turned off by sustainability because they just think about climate change or greenhouse gas emissions. But that's short-sighted because sustainability is about so much more, and they understand that the different elements, the different risks, and the different drivers within your own footprint are often translated to cost savings when you get those controls. That's an important element.
Yeah, definitely. So you're looking for industry partners for this next day. What are you looking for in a partner, and how should companies reach out if they want to participate?
So IFEEDER, we pursue our mission and work with support from industry and non-industry members, and so we have partners that, of course, are folks within the animal feed and pet food industry and corporate entities, but we also have partners in university systems that we're collaborating on grants with, or from some of the checkoff or stakeholder organizations that we have obtained grant dollars from. We mix those resources and we mix those partners to make a strong collaboration to advance the sustainability effort. From a corporate standpoint, from an industry member standpoint, we are IFEEDER, the Institute for Feed Education & Research. We are a 501(c)(3), and we are a nonprofit, which means we are in fundraising mode, a lot of the time for our projects.
A good corporate partner for us comes with some dollars, we're open to all amounts of funding, we don't turn any amount away. We treat all those folks equally when they come in to work on a project with us. The current efforts underway, we are just getting ready to kick off our new sustainability roadmap advisory team. That group is made up of funders for the phase two work, so now's the time to get involved.
If somebody, if there's an entity out there that wants to be involved in the sustainability effort, you know, please, by all means, contact me at IFEEDER. We need industry members' involvement because they all come with slightly different perspective. Either they're well advanced on their sustainability journeys, or they're early on in their sustainability journeys, or maybe they're in the feed ingredient space, or in the co-product byproducts space or in oil seed grain seed processing, you know. Everybody comes from a different place within the feed sector or comes from a different perspective of where they are on their journey. And those voices are all really important to us to be able to create resources and efforts that support the broader industry.
Yeah, IFEEDER always made sense to me. Because it's a donation. It's technically a charity organization. But it's an investment in the industry as a whole. Which kind of keeps us all going. Your website is, I believe, ifeeder.org.
That's correct. And there is information there on how to make a contribution to any of the different projects, or they can also reach out to me, and I'll tell you. My email is email@example.com. You can reach out to me if you want to learn more about the different projects we have underway.
Yeah, well, you're open to chatting with members of the industry. So IFEEDER, and you mentioned earlier, is kind of, I don't want to say complete partnership. But you've been working a lot with the WWF, which, for whatever reason, as a 35-year-old man, I can't disassociate with the wrestling organization. But it's the World Wildlife Fund, which is a great organization and seems very willing to work with the industry on sustainability. Can you talk to me a little bit about your partnership? They recently released a white paper that you contributed to called Focus on Sustainable Feed, which I read and is a really interesting read. And available on their website. I'll have a link to it in the show notes. But it was fascinating to get through. And I'm just kind of interested in how this partnership started and what you've been working with them on.
I came from working with the fertilizer industry, Steven, before I came to the feed industry. When I was in the fertilizer industry, I had the opportunity to partner with the Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense Fund on different projects. And you know, that brought home to me the opportunity that we have to work with civil society organizations, especially those that are pragmatic in their thinking, meaning that they see they see something they want to change, but they recognize that they need to work with industry and not against the industry for the betterment of all. And so not every civil society organization is like that, but WWF in the U.S. is one of those entities. They see feed as important to the things that they want to pursue relative to agriculture. they see it as important relative to greenhouse gas emissions. they see it as important to maintaining land use the way it currently is so that we're not converting prairie or forest for feed production. Those things are important to them, but they see the opportunity to work with feed in that space.
They actually have a pretty strong team at World Wildlife Fund here in the US. It's focused on livestock production and feed elements. And we had this opportunity last year to collaborate for the Feed System Sustainability Summit. And we brought together the whole animal feed and pet food value chain together to be able to discuss where some of our challenges lie in this space and to start thinking about solutions to pursue, so the white paper actually came as a result of that Feed System Sustainability Summit. They built that focus around solutions from content that came out of that summit.
The effort, and as it reflects in the paper, the summit effort was focused on regenerative agriculture, which we said a little bit about, was focused on innovation in the feed industry circularity in the feed industry. And there we're talking about the ability to use co-products and byproducts in animal feed because oftentimes, feed products that can't be used for human consumption. But animals can consume those, so we're taking waste out of the system. Circularity is an area.
The fourth area we focused on at the summit and in the paper is responsible sourcing. So obviously, the responsible sourcing could be the feed industry responsibly sourcing feed ingredients or commodity crops that we're using within our system. Responsible sourcing could be a downstream stakeholder and where the decisions they're making about protein, right, that they're purchasing. And so, within that space, we worked on all of those areas.
I think the most important takeaway that I had from the summit that was clarified for me, as they were, as we were pulling together the white paper, is that it's not just the feed sector that's responsible for these solutions. It's the whole value chain around the feed sector. Because if we bring innovations to bear, but the downstream stakeholder isn't interested in those innovations, then why are we doing it? It's not economically feasible for us. Similarly, if we want to focus on responsible sourcing, but our upstream crop producers aren't doing all the things that they could do to reduce the footprint of the production of that grain, then again, we can't responsibly source those materials. We have to have collaboration and partnerships across that whole value chain to act on the solutions that WWF speaks to. And important, we have to have market signals, right? We need, as the feed sector, to hear from the livestock producers and the downstream customers that they want the things that we could actually bring to help reduce their footprint.
Definitely, and I like that it's a reasonable solution to, like you said, they're pragmatic about what it is. What is it? What is and what isn't an option? Because there are some environmental groups out there, like, oh, let's just all stop eating animals. And you're like, well, that's not gonna happen.
That's not gonna happen, right? Oftentimes, those folks that want to stop eating animals forget that animals consume a lot of their waste products from their vegan efforts. And if we weren't feeding that stuff back to animals, then what would they be doing with all those waste products? Right?
Exactly. And it's not as simple as just, oh, we'll just grow vegetables. Now. It's not how things work, unfortunately. But those are all the questions I have. And it's really exciting the work you guys are doing. I look forward to these talks every six months or so, where I get to kind of catch up and see what you guys are up to. So thank you so much for speaking to me and my audience.
Well, we appreciate the opportunity to be able to share what IFEEDER is up to. And just as a reminder, if you want more information on the Toolkit itself, or making a donation or learn about some of the other projects that Peter has underway, you can catch us on ifeeder.org.
Yeah, please, everyone, go there. There will be links to it all over the show notes and within the transcripts and things as well. So no excuse not to just click a button. Well, thank you so much. And we'll talk again soon.
Great. Thanks for having us on.