Written by Antonio Albaladejo Román.
People in the EU consume millions of tonnes of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products every year. Animal products, which many consider essential for a balanced and nutritious diet, account for more than a third of the EU’s total agricultural output, and are an integral part of Europe’s rich and diverse gastronomic culture. Meeting the high demand for nutritious and affordable products of animal origin is a key task of the EU’s agricultural sector, which employs millions across all Member States. However, the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and Russia’s war on Ukraine mean that feeding Europe’s livestock is becoming increasingly difficult.
Thanks to the common agricultural policy, the EU is not facing a food availability crisis. Nevertheless, with feedstuffs already now the highest producer input, rising costs for farmers translate into higher prices for basic commodities such as meat, eggs and milk. Inflation rates for food – the highest after those for energy – reached 13.8 % in December 2022 and remain the main concern for EU citizens, particularly lower-income households.
The European Parliament has repeatedly called for the sources of animal feed to be diversified. EU leaders have expressed their commitment to ensuring the EU’s food security and tackling rising food prices by reducing the EU’s dependency on key imported agricultural products and inputs, in particular vegetal proteins for animal feed.
The need for greater autonomy and diversification of animal feed sources, and the growing emphasis on the agricultural supply chains’ sustainability and circularity, is encouraging innovation in animal nutrition. Boosting the EU’s domestic production of feedstuffs, in particular of plant-based proteins, will increase the EU’s competitiveness and resilience against future supply disruptions.
Read the complete briefing on ‘EU feed autonomy: Closing the gaps in European food security‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.