2022 Outlook for Food and Agriculture
Around 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and land use, rising to more than 25% for the food system as a whole when you include processing, packaging and transport.
It’s therefore widely accepted that food and farming practices will be key to cutting emissions over the next few decades. It was a surprise to many then, that food and agriculture were somewhat overlooked at the COP26 climate conference in November. During the two weeks of the conference, themes such as finance, energy and transport were allocated their own days, but there was no dedicated day for agriculture or food systems.
Although there was a lot of talk about protecting forests, there was far less debate about meat consumption, food waste or any firm pledges to change farming subsidy systems.
But discussions about energy use and pledges to cut carbon have given us a good idea of how the food and agriculture landscape will shift in 2022 and beyond. Here are three key trends food and agri businesses need to know about this year.
1. The move to renewable energy will accelerate
Fossil fuels used to be much cheaper than renewable energy, but that is changing. Wind and solar plants have become 70% and 89% cheaper in the last ten years and, their capacity will exceed coal and gas in less than five years, according to the IEA’s Renewables 2020.
As we continue to move away from fossil fuels, more businesses will look at ways of generating their own energy. At JG Pears, we are leading the way in this area.
To offset the heat needed to process animal by-products (ABPs), we have developed and installed a co-incineration plant at our Newark site. It is powered entirely by renewable biomass generated from Category 1 ABPs that would otherwise be disposed of.
This means heat for our rendering process no longer relies on fossil fuels for steam generation. Instead, steam is generated by the combined heat and power (CHP) unit in the co-incineration plant. This biomass-fired CHP plant uses meat and bone meal (MBM) to replace more than 90% of the fossil fuels used in the current business processes. MBM is a sustainable alternative with a calorific value equal to coal, meaning in excess of 150,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be saved per year. MBM can also be sourced more locally than the fuels currently used, which in turn reduces carbon emissions from transport and transport kilometres.
2. Upcycling and using by-products will see huge growth
As more businesses pledge to end food waste, upcycling and using by-products will see huge growth.
In recent years product innovation has been dominated by ‘imperfect’ produce or scraps and trimmings being incorporated into new products, but 2022 will see the category expand into the use of by-products; a more consistent and scalable waste source solution.
For example, spent grains, by-product-based flours and aquafaba, (a by-product of soaking or cooking legumes in water), are emerging as category-leading by-product opportunities. With so many people now adopting plant-based diets, use of such by-products is certainly important. But the vegetarian/vegan market has levelled out, and flexitarian diets that allow for meat eating are gaining a growing following.
The centuries-old process of rendering will therefore continue to lead in the way in this area, turning inedible animal by-products from meat production into everything from pharmaceutical products, waxes and biodiesel, to high-quality protein-rich feeds for the pet-food and fish aquaculture industries. These recycled animal fats not only reduce waste, but play a significant role in reducing the demand for palm oil.
3. Climate positivity will supersede carbon offsetting
Introducing carbon offsetting measures (making up for the emission of CO2 or other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere) is now expected of most businesses as part of their CSR commitments. In 2022 carbon offsetting is likely to be superseded by climate positivity. This is where a company’s activities are actually creating an environmental benefit by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
With food production responsible for such a large proportion of greenhouse gases, and consumers more aware of this than ever before, food and agri businesses in particular will be expected to go this extra mile to help tackle climate change.
As part of the food and farming value chain, at JG Pears we are fully supportive of our farmer suppliers becoming more carbon positive through their practices and through using pasture carbon capture effectively in turn help the NFU achieve their net zero carbon farming target by 2040.