Sustainable soy in Swiss milk production
Soy Network Switzerland makes a significant contribution to making Swiss agriculture comprehensively more sustainable.
Head of Procurement Emmi Group
Sustainable dairy products come from sustainable milk. In addition to animal welfare, Emmi focuses here on feed, which should primarily consist of roughage. High-protein soy can also be beneficial as a feed supplement. However, it must come from sustainable sources. By joining Soy Network Switzerland, Emmi aims to help ensure that only certified soy is used in Swiss milk production.
The sustainability of dairy products hinges on the production of milk. For Emmi, this means dairy production adapted to Switzerland and its pastures. Emmi focuses here on both animal welfare and feed. More specifically, dairy cows in Switzerland should eat little expensive concentrated feed, but mainly turn grass, which is indigestible for humans, into rich milk. However, for a balanced diet (depending, for example, on the breed of cow, husbandry system or lactation period), the use of supplementary feed can be beneficial. Emmi believes that use of high-protein soy should not be ruled out, as long as it is sustainably produced.
Negative consequences of soy cultivation
Soy has been grown in China and Japan for thousands of years. Soy is now cultivated on 6 % of global agricultural land and is the most important oilseed worldwide. The largest producers of soy are the US (117 million tonnes or 35 % of global production), followed by Brazil (96 million tonnes or 30 %) and Argentina (59 million tonnes or 18 %). From a sustainability perspective, soy is primarily problematic due to its cultivation in large-scale monocultures, destruction of the rainforests to provide areas to cultivate soy and the use of huge volumes of pesticides. The spread of soy cultivation also leads to social conflicts and tensions between growers and local communities. Sustainability standards try to counteract these problems. Because the cultivation of soy itself is not critical. Like most pulses (legumes), soy plants bind nitrogen, thereby helping to improve soil fertility. They support the formation of humus, and help prevent soil erosion and leaching of plant nutrients from the soil.
Going the last mile
The majority of Swiss dairy farmers already feed their cows in accordance with their needs and adapted to the location. The feed is predominantly roughage (in particular grass, hay, silage), with oil seeds (including soy) making up only a minimal share (3 %).
Most soy in Switzerland is imported. Thanks to Soy Network Switzerland, 99 % of imported soy used for feed currently comes from sustainable, GMO-free cultivation. Since 2011, the network has actively worked to ensure that imported soy comes primarily from responsible production. At that time, only 40 % did. The proportion of soy from Europe has also increased greatly and is already at 22 %.
Emmi welcomes the efforts of Soy Network Switzerland, which makes a significant contribution to making Swiss agriculture comprehensively more sustainable. By becoming a member of Soy Network Switzerland, Emmi aims to support the association in its work.
The Executive Board of Soy Network Switzerland approved Emmi’s membership application on 8 February 2018.