The European Green Deal - Farm to Fork Strategy: Livestock Chain open letter
5 March 2020
Representing a group of 11 Brussels-based organisations, the European organisations of the livestock chain welcome the European Commission’s ambition to transform our current agri-food system through the Green Deal and more specifically the Farm to Fork strategy. As responsible actors linked to livestock farming, the whole system is willing to drive changes towards greater sustainability. The livestock sector is hotly debated when it comes to sustainable food systems, therefore our voice needs to be heard. We have both a duty and the means to contribute to the European Commission’s objectives.
The first Farm-to-Fork thinking at EU level started in the early 2000s, triggered by food and feed safety reasons, making a move away from the silo mentality and taking a more holistic approach. European animal-source products are known worldwide for their safety and quality, their high animal health and welfare standards, the excellence in animal breeding, including new breeding technologies, animal nutrition and better and more efficient use of resources. We fully support a renewed Farm-to-Fork thinking focusing on sustainability.
Environmental rules have become more stringent and our companies and farmers have already achieved great progress in reducing GHG emissions from the EU livestock sector below 6% of the EU’s total GHG emissions. 1Our ambition is to remain the engine of employment and economic vitality of rural zones, whilst being committed to greater sustainability to address societal and environmental challenges.

In order to meet these demands, the European organisations of the livestock chain believe that the European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy (FtF) needs to take the specificities and assets of the EU livestock value chain that we represent into account.
Our performance will improve…
 by understanding the needs and engaging with all socio-economic partners and public bodies that compose the livestock value chain when it comes to sustainability and circularity of the agri-food system. Livestock production is so much more than just meat, fish, dairy and eggs. The EU livestock sector provides numerous valuable by-products but also services to our society, mainly in rural areas; raw materials / components for the manufacturing of consumer products such as pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, leather, wool and fur products, feed for food producing animals and pet food, biodiesel, porcelain, isolation material whilst preserving rural communities, families, nature and landscapes;
 by maintaining, facilitating and promoting private and public partnerships, across sectors including civil society, for research and innovation in the EU with ambitious research programmes and the appropriate legal frameworks;
 by acknowledging that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for improvement of sustainable performance of individual operators and therefore by favouring objective-driven legislation vs. prescriptive rules so as to stimulate innovative solutions and allow operators to implement the measures fitting best their specific situation/environment.
with measures built on science, …
 by fully recognising feed and food safety as an integral part of sustainability in the EU food and feed legal framework;
 by setting transparent and clear peer-reviewed references, and fair and consensual metrics for meaningful impact assessments;
 by acknowledging, promoting and enhancing the benefits of the variety of farming systems in Europe;
 by setting key performance indicators, in particular reduction targets that should be impact oriented, especially for those parameters where no good indicators of performance exist; by setting key and indisputable indicators to evaluate the economic, environmental, animal health and welfare, and social performances of livestock systems
 by developing a systemic approach to address issues and adequately meet societal and environmental needs.

encompassing the three main pillars of sustainability, …
 by developing a clear definition of sustainability which needs to reflect the FAO concept, including the economic pillar; such a definition would prevent the proliferation of different schemes and would help to reach a harmonised approach in the EU;
 by acknowledging that we produce animal products in a very efficient and climate smart way in the EU; the EU livestock sector provides affordable food for EU citizens. Sustainable animal production exported to other countries is also a source of wealth and wellbeing for the EU;
 by acknowledging and enhancing the benefits of all farming systems in Europe;
 by ensuring a fair and comparable calculation of environmental footprint, taking into account that:
o agriculture is the only sector that can naturally absorb a portion of GHG emissions (grasslands, agroforestry …);
o the specificity of methane that does not remain as long in the atmosphere as CO22;
o efficient use of manure as natural fertiliser (safeguarding EU soils and biodiversity), possible credits from the use of by-products, and the avoided emissions in the atmosphere, including the recycling of hides and skins into leather and the biogas production.
 by upholding standards (past and future) that maintain the competitiveness of the EU livestock sector all across Europe and worldwide;
 by avoiding the externalisation and relocation of production and research and innovation activities to other countries with lower environmental, animal health and welfare, social and safety standards;
 by keeping in mind, the importance of rural areas and generational renewal in the livestock farming sector and the meat system
 by preserving the primary goal of the CAP which is producing safe food in enough quantity to feed the EU, providing a fair income to farmers and at affordable price for consumers (TFEU, Art. 39).
promoting balanced and nutritious diets …
 by encouraging proper education and information of all consumers categories about the nutritional value of food products versus their nutritional needs; avoiding simplistic approaches, promoting objectivity and tracking false information on this complex issue;
 by referring to elements that are not controversial from a nutritional viewpoint: animal products are rich in highly digestible protein including essential amino acids, vitamins, trace-elements and other important required nutrients;

 by acknowledging that sustainable food systems require a fundamental evolution of consumption practices, including education on food storage and preparation, and a balanced diet, optimisation of primary food resources and reducing leftovers at household level;
 by keeping in mind that enjoyment of animal-source foods, fashion and musical instruments are also part of the Cultural Heritage of Europe.
and restoring confidence in the integrity, quality and safety of EU livestock products.
 by ensuring that any new legislative proposal for “Sustainable Food Systems” will be carefully assessed as to not undermine existing animal health, feed and food safety standards;
 by systematically evaluating the extent to which existing and new legislations affect the vulnerability of operators of the livestock system and consumers/customers to fraudulent behaviour;
 by prioritising facts over opinions and tracking fake information. To be successful, the Green Deal/FtF strategy needs to be a collective
exercise with a fair share of not only benefits, but also efforts. All value stakeholders (including consumers), all systems must feel co-responsible and committed in the process so that it can be a fair and win-win exercise, building on legislative acquis (animal health and welfare, feed and food safety, etc.) and objective facts and science. As there is no one solution that fits all, we see it as a long journey requiring frequent evaluations of the performance of legislative and non-legislative initiatives, adapted to knowledge accumulation, innovations and technological developments.
All European agricultural sectors and its diverse production methods must be able to make their contribution in sustainability. In our livestock sectors, we need further investments to make this happen, with your support for consistent, common EU agri-food systems policies.

For the letter: Click HERE

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