Climate protection in animal husbandry

Our responsibility for climate-friendly animal husbandry and meat production.

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Climate protection in animal husbandry

Of all greenhouse gasses in Germany, 3.79 per cent come from animal husbandry as a result of producing meat, milk, butter, eggs and cheese for us all. Together with our livestock partners, we are working to continuously improve the carbon footprint of meat production – for climate-friendly animal husbandry and meat production.

Meat is an important supplier of nutrients, providing the body with essential proteins, vitamins and minerals. The manufacture of this valuable food requires resources.

In particular animal husbandry and feed production cause emissions that have implications for the climate. This includes methane emissions from animal husbandry and spreading manure, and nitrous oxide emissions from soil used in agriculture.

Dr. Wilhelm Jaeger

Director of Agriculture Department

Dr. Gereon Schulze Althoff

Director of Quality Management and Veterinary Services

Important key figures

Our work

Tönnies works with partners on innovations to improve our own climate protection footprint and that of the producers. In doing so, we also develop tools for resource-saving agriculture. With each initiative in climate-friendly animal husbandry and feed production, we also take into account the latest animal welfare criteria and the economic aims of the farmers, their families and the dependent jobs. We are thus drivers for the future of the rural regions and accept our responsibility for the well-being of people and animals as well as for climate protection.

Activities to improve the carbon footprint for meat in animal husbandry:

implement good agricultural practice

improve the robustness of breeding animals, breeding and feed conversion of the animals

improve feed quality (e.g. through protein-reduced multi-phase feeding)

improve manure management (e.g. through reduction in the use of mineral fertilisers and better use of organic fertilisers)

research to identify previously unused potentials

Tönnies is a founding member of the QS Prüfzeichen [QA Test Mark]. This is the platform for ensuring and independently reviewing good agricultural practice. We prefer to purchase our pigs and cattle from agricultural producers who participate in this monitoring programme. More at www.q-s.de

With increased productivity, the resource consumption attributed to one food unit of meat is reduced. The breeding and management performance of our farming suppliers has led to greatly improved feed conversion and better animal health in recent years.

Whereas xxkg of feed was required for rearing a 100 kg slaughter pig in 1990, a 100 kg animal today requires yyper cent less food. The main reason is that it utilises and processes the available nutrients more efficiently. With this action alone, emissions of CO2 equivalents have already fallen by zzper cent.

In the beef sector, we slaughter and process the majority of cattle from systems primarily used for milk production. These are dairy cows and their offspring, because a cow can only produce milk if it calves once each year. Together with our partners, we support breeding and farming measures for sustainable cattle farming.

The tools in animal breeding and management of animal health must be consistently used and further developed. At the same time, these developments must add real value to resource conservation and animal welfare. Tönnies participates in this with a number of actions.

We are also involved in the further development of innovative resource-saving feeding concepts for pigs. These include reducing the soya content. For example, a farmer using the TONISO feeding system requires 30 per cent less soya per reared pig than with conventional feed.

Concepts for protein-reduced, multi-phase feeding have existed for a long time; however, they have never been implemented in practice. Long-term investigations by Tönnies with pilot sites have demonstrated the efficiency of multi-phase feeding. Together with partners, we have developed additional feed components which make protein feeding even more efficient through the addition of amino acids. Fattening animals thus excrete less nitrogen. Introduction of nitrogeninto the soil is reduced by up to 30 per cent.

In 2018–2019, communication and classification results led to the widespread implementation of this method by our agricultural partners.

 

The effects are:

  • reduction in nutrient inputs into the nutrient cycle
  • reduction in nutrient outputs into the groundwater
  • more efficient utilisation of available nutrients

 

Abattoir by-products from healthy slaughtered animals are still not approved for feeding to other species, even 20 years after BSE. A valuable resource is being wasted.

The import of soya could be further reduced.

Pigs and hens could again be fed in accordance with their original classification.

We are involved in the relevant committees and with policy makers for the re-approval of animal proteins in livestock feed.

Together with our partners from animal husbandry, we are working on climate-friendly open stall concepts. These combine the social aspect and the animal welfare measures requested by retailers with regard to outdoor climate with simultaneously reduced emissions. In this case, this is achieved by the systematic separation of faeces and urine excrement.

The separation of liquid and solid parts results in a reduction in ammonia emissions. The solid manure is sold as a valuable fertiliser and fed back into the ecological cycle where it is needed.

This has several positive effects:

  • significant reduction of nutrient input in problem areas
  • improved use of organic fertilisers as a replacement for mineral fertilisers that are energy-intensive to produce

The German Federal Environment Agency calculated that 7.3 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 were the result of agriculture and animal husbandry in Germany.

In Germany, agriculture contributes to the emission of the following greenhouse gasses:

Methan (CH4)
This gas is produced during the digestion of grass and other plant components, in particular by dairy cows, and in the storage of farm manure, in particular from cattle. The fermentation steps in the gastrointestinal tract of the animals are required to enable nutritious foods such as dairy products or meat to be produced from green plants such as pasture grass.

Carbon dioxide (CO2)
This gas is released in significant quantities when, for example, pasture land is converted to arable land. In recent years, pasture land has increasingly been converted to farmed arable land, also to meet the increasing demand for high-quality foods. The use of urea-based fertilisers and the application of lime to soil also release quantities of carbon dioxide.

Nitrous oxide (N2O)
Nitrous oxide is generated in agriculture and animal husbandry, both directly and indirectly: Direct emissions of nitrous oxide are mainly the result of the use of nitrogen-based fertilisers (e.g. mineral fertilisers and manure) if this exceeds the fertiliser requirement of the cultivated plants. Other causes are the farming of organic soil, crop residues in the soil and fermentation residues from biogas plants. Indirect nitrous oxide emissions occur if reactive nitrogen compounds such as nitrate and ammonia leak into the surrounding natural habitats and are then converted back into nitrous oxide.

In comparison

The emissions from fossil fuels for heating, power generation and transport alone made up 84.9 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Germany in 2016.

Scientists have calculated that halving the meat consumption in Germany would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount as replacing 2 per cent of emissions from lignite by wind energy.

Our responsibility

For thousands of years, livestock have been an essential part of the circular economy practised in central Europe. They enabled the development of human civilisation in Europe. Without livestock there would not have been, and would still not be today, any animal-based protein and no organic fertilisers for crop plants.

Today too, this circular economy also makes an important contribution to meeting the demand for protein-rich foods and, specifically, meat products. But this uses up resources.

For many years now, we have been working on reducing the associated emissions in a pragmatic, targeted way and in cooperation with agricultural producers, science and research as well as authorities and associations. Our responsibility starts with the reduction of our own emissions at our production sites. We also support our agricultural partners in improving their carbon footprint.

We created a comprehensive analysis of the carbon footprint for a pork schnitzel back in 2011.

Tönnies CO2 Footprint 2011

From this basic analysis, we defined a series of levers which since then we have used as a basis for our work with our partners with regard to producing pork and beef that is as climate friendly as possible. Our focus is on implementing climate protection goals in animal husbandry. We are on the right track to achieve this.

Agricultural exports to different parts of the world are a key element for providing a growing world population with high-quality, safe foods. Our homeland of Germany is a ‘favoured region’ for the manufacture of meat products.

Germany is thus one of the most important meat producers in the world for meeting the demand for meat and protein. In this country, the highest animal welfare and consumer standards are applicable, together with climate protection provisions. These provisions ensure that at Tönnies we already achieve a carbon footprint in the manufacture of meat products that sets worldwide standards. We started to reduce our emissions early on. And with our partners from animal husbandry, we are actively working on improving the carbon footprint of agriculture. We will continue on this path in the coming years.

Unlike, for example, private transport, tourism or the indoor climate control at home, as one of the most important providers of protein, meat is essential for the human diet. Yet livestock husbandry is also important for natural cycles because without it, there is no organic fertiliser, no use of grasslands for human food and much more.

A favoured region is mainly characterised by areas with a natural advantage, with fertile soil, moderate climate, sufficient rainfall. Furthermore, technical knowledge, qualified experts and a well-developed infrastructure also have a positive effect on agriculture and the provision of raw materials, and enable good yields and products. Germany is a favoured region due to its climate and also its very good trade infrastructure.

A favoured region is mainly characterised by areas with a natural advantage, with fertile soil, moderate climate, sufficient rainfall. Furthermore, technical knowledge, qualified experts and a well-developed infrastructure also have a positive effect on agriculture and the provision of raw materials, and enable good yields and products. Germany is a favoured region due to its climate and also its very good trade infrastructure.

Other measures in the production chain:

environmental management and careful handling of resources at our production sites

optimised logistics chains

use and processing of the entire carcass

careful handling of raw materials and energy resources in the supply chain

Looking further ahead

All measures are way off the mark if meat is not appreciated as it should be. It is one of our social tasks to use the valuable resources resulting from the carcasses as well as possible and to avoid waste.

First of all we ensure that as much of the entire carcass is used as possible. The export of pork from the agricultural nation of Germany also successfully helps to sell parts of the pig that are a delicacy in other parts of the world but which are not eaten in Germany. For example, pig trotters, stomachs, ears, veins, cartilage and much more.

We also want to implement hygiene standards that are as high as possible in order to minimise germ contamination on the meat and enable as long a shelf life as possible.

Marketing of a pig

Our goals

The foundations have been laid for the further reduction of emissions from animal husbandry.

It is our goal to implement technology available on the market more widely in cooperation with our partners. In this regard, there are hurdles to overcome and initiatives to set. We are thus involved in politics and, through successful pilot projects, we are creating facts that pave the way for further development.

Tönnies is also working with researchers from the University of Kiel on a major joint project for the Association for Technology and Structures in Agriculture (KTBL) which looks at the effects of dung-urea separation systems on emissions. This creates a useful database for new stall buildings and approval processes.

Tönnies is committed to the integration of resource-saving processes in programmes for sustainably produced meat, which, alongside issues of animal welfare, also includes elements of resource protection.

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Dr. Wilhelm Jaeger

Director of Agriculture Department

Dr. Gereon Schulze Althoff

Director of Quality Management and Veterinary Services