On May 11, USSEC sponsored the annual networking event for the Dutch feed industry. Co-organized by the Royal Dutch Grain and Feed Trade Association (Het Comite) and the Dutch Feed Industry Association (NEVEDI), the event took place in a former feed mill complex, innovatively renovated as an event space, on the outskirts of Utrecht, Netherlands. As in the past, the organizers chose a broad theme for presentations and discussion. USSEC has participated in prior year’s sessions on sustainability and protein sources of the future. This year’s theme was Consumer Demand.
The first speaker of the morning session set the tone and provided an outline of how “incidences” lead to trends, which lead to patterns. A Dutch psychologist provided an analysis on consumer behavior in the supermarket, dispelling the five myths of consumer behavior, noting that while price is important, sustainability is of increasing importance to at least two of the market segments. She noted the importance of the social environment and that providing more information and facts alone will not change consumer preferences. A motivating story is better than facts.
The afternoon session began with a presentation by a representative of the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals who described a new market initiative to label meat on the retail level with “stars” based on their animal welfare standards. Science-based with input from all stakeholders, from producers to retailers, the program appears to be successful and is expanding with one of the major bulk/discount retailers in the Netherlands.
Brent Babb, USSEC Regional Director – Europe (EU) / Middle East –North Africa (MENA) provided a presentation on sustainable soybean production in the United States and the U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP). He noted that NEVEDI was the first European organization to recognize the scheme and their critical assistance in having the scheme later recognized by FEFAC, the European-wide feed industry association. Mr. Babb also highlighted USSEC engagement with the Field to Market program and how this project engages a broad representation of interests, focused on continuous improvement and output metrics.
The final speaker of the day was an academic researcher who summarized her work on the lifecycle analysis of meat consumption, including “consequential analysis” of secondary impact. Among her conclusions is that switching from imported soybean meal to domestically produced rapeseed meal in animal feed would have a significant environmental impact, particularly in terms of greenhouse gases and energy use. She also defended a limited role for animal protein in meeting the global nutritional needs of the future.
At the end, all the speakers joined the directors of NEVEDI and Het Comite on the stage and participated in a discussion on various statements, with active voting and participation of the audience.
USSEC’s support for this event is critical and appreciated by the organizers. It provides a speaking platform for USSEC, enables networking and building contacts and critical insights into the current conditions and dynamics of the Dutch feed and livestock production industries. All involved look forward to next year’s event.