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China Food Security Initiative Achieves Key Milestones

  • Date: 16 October 2017
  • Author: Ron Cotterman, Sealed Air and Judith Hochhauser Schneider, WWF
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A key premise of the China Food Security Initiative is that addressing the issues of environmental impact, food security and food waste cannot be separated from effective supply chain management. From farming right down to consumption, each private and public entity including the consumer plays a critical role in enhancing food security and reducing food waste. At stake is not only the conservation of precious environment and natural resources, but also reducing cross-contamination and risk of epidemic outbreak of diseases such as the H7N9 bird flu.

This is why the program’s scope takes into consideration the entire supply chain, from in-depth research to engaging key players across each step of the supply chain. A key deliverable of the program was to develop guidelines and best management practices across China’s poultry supply chain to support the government and industry in building a more efficient model that is also safer and more sustainable.

“The rising global demand for food, driven by a growing middle class that can afford more meat, is putting pressure on natural resources. With intensified pressure from climate change, limiting food waste is a critical step the food industry and consumers can take to reduce the resources needed to produce food. As China imports feed from other countries, higher poultry demand drives higher demand for feed which impacts agriculture and resource use.”

Judith Hochhauser Schneider
Director for Private Sector Engagement, WWF-US

Utilizing baseline research that included an in-depth study of East China’s poultry supply chain as well as a lifecycle assessment of the environmental impact of different production methods, a Best Practices Management (BMP) Guide was developed under the initiative.  This is a comprehensive checklist of food safety practices and procedures that can help reduce the loss of product due to contamination and spoilage along the poultry supply chain from slaughter to sale at grocery retail stores. It was developed with input from internationally recognized academic experts and industry practitioners in the United States and the People’s Republic of China, and based on a review of current national and subnational standards, and guidelines from around the globe.

Another key objective of the initiative was to assess the environmental impact and the greenhouse gas emissions generated across the food supply chain or lifecycle, and to identify ways to reduce the impact as well as prevent food waste. Consumers should realize that the total cost of food thrown away in the bin is more than just its retail cost. Waste at the retail and consumer end actually translates to higher environmental impact than waste at earlier stages. This is because of the resources such as feed, water and energy that have been used to get the food to that stage. A Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) was therefore conducted to quantify the environmental impact  of different supply chain systems for packaged and unpackaged chicken, from farming to retail. The Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) report showed that nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions are associated with feed alone. It also found that chilled packaged chicken generally showed a lower environmental impact than unpackaged chicken that needs to be frozen, due to lower energy requirements for chilling and longer shelf life. Today, 80 percent of the poultry purchased by Chinese consumers is unpackaged. Overall, the report confirmed that moving to a supply chain in China that incorporates improved farm processes, packaging and cold-chain methods, has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 20 percent.

Other resources developed through the initiative included consumer education materials, infographics and a video.

With the increasing industrialization of the poultry sector in China, which is the second largest in the world, the program has been timely to present opportunities to improve production efficiency and in the process, enhance food safety and quality for the ultimate benefit of consumers.

Just like in China, various developing countries in Asia are facing a transition in moving from small-scale to larger commercial farming and retailing of poultry. Given the vast amount of resources that go into producing a chicken, there exists significant room to increase access to safe, nutritious food while helping to conserve natural resources and preserve vital ecosystems.

“The China Food Security Initiative is a best-case example of how corporations, government, industry and NGOs can work to address key issues that have a global impact on the environment and food security. We see tremendous opportunities to share the learnings and experience from this program with other fast-growth developing countries where meat production forms a significant part of their economies and that are looking to transform their supply chains for the better.”

Ron Cotterman
Vice President, Sustainability, Sealed Air

The China Food Security Initiative is nearing its completion and achievements such as the BMP guide and LCA report will be used to support both public and private sector work to improve food waste processes, food security and food safety across China’s poultry market. The program collaborators are now embarking on industry and consumer engagement efforts to help key stakeholders make informed choices on quality control, safety risk mitigation and waste reduction. Various engagement workshops have been organized to-date with the latest being held in Beijing, China on 28 June 2017 for various government ministries, processors and retailers. In addition to presenting the BMP guide, the workshop also shared best practices from selected countries around the world. Overall feedback from the attendees have been positive and encouraging, with many seeing the BMP Guide as a good first step to improve status quo and accelerate implementation of best practices.

The China Food Security Initiative, aimed at modernizing China’s poultry supply chain, has entered its final year of collaboration among Sealed Air, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the China Chain Store & Franchise Association (CCFA). The program aims to minimize the environmental footprint of poultry and to share best practices for a sustainable supply chain that addresses food safety, packaging, storage, and distribution of poultry products in China. Ron Cotterman from Sealed Air and Judith Hochhauser Schneider from WWF highlight the key milestones achieved over the past 3 years of the project.

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