Focused on the need to transform the models that govern food today and how these changes are being carried out sustainably, the webinar “Do our food systems need to be transformed?” was held as part of the fourth Chile Agrícola Expo (its second virtual version) organized by the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture.

ChileCarne’s President, Juan Carlos Domínguez had an active participation, alongside Olga Barbosa, Regional Secretary of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation for the Southern Macrozone; Ray Archuleta, member of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Center; and Rafael Larraín, Agronomy Professor at the Universidad Católica de Chile.

Regarding the importance of transforming food systems, Juan Carlos Dominguez explained that: “In Chile, a transformation is needed, but we are already doing it by improving efficiency. This concept is not only aimed at lowering costs and increasing margins, but rather optimizing the use of natural resources. It is clear that sustainability is the basis of our agriculture and that is why efficiency is so important. Saving water, developing new technologies and animal welfare good practices are proof of this.”

Essential proteins that feed the world with efficient production

Regarding the consumption of animal protein and the issues of obesity and malnutrition in various parts of Chile and the world, Juan Carlos Domínguez said: “There is no doubt that people need to consume essential amino acids that are only found in animal products such as chicken, turkey, and pork, which have proteins of high biological value. As an industry, we are working to become more efficient and more sustainable every day; but there is another key issue: although improvements in production systems are needed, we also need to promote sustainable consumption.”

Domínguez stated that being efficient/sustainable in the white meat industry requires the implementation of various strategies throughout the production chain. First of all, sustainable animal feed: the industry produces protein from the energy provided by plants —corn and soybeans—and that is why advances and improvements in genetic lines and also in feed manufacturing, using pelleting technologies that avoid feed losses and improve conversion, are essential. Another key aspect is the circular economy, one of the main assets of the industry that contributes to reducing the carbon footprint with a zero-waste production both at the farm level and the slaughterhouse by implementing advanced treatment technologies and the generation of renewable energy. “In the last 20 years, there has been a 32% reduction in GHG emissions per head in the pork industry, which represents a reduction of 422.8 Gg of CO2 emissions per year. That is the equivalent of the CO2 absorbed by 23,642 hectares of pine or the planting of 28 million trees,” he added.

In Mallarauco, 80 km South of Santiago, there is a pig farm that has become energy self-sufficient by using a biodigester. In addition, it irrigates over 300 hectares of corn with slurry, also saving on the use of fertilizers, which represent approximately 10% of total production costs.

Domínguez also believes that efficient water consumption is another relevant aspect to consider: “To produce 576.000 tons of pork annually, 8 million m3 of water is used, which is negligeable, equivalent to approximately 1% of what the fruit sector uses in Chile, 2% of the population’s consumption, and less than 6% of the water consumption in the mining sector. But the most important thing is that 50% of the volume of water used by the industry, i.e., the equivalent of 4 million m3 is treated in advanced treatment plants and returned to the basins for its reuse. Through these good practices we are able to produce sustainably.