The chicken and egg of food transition

11/06/2018

On June 6, we visited Kipster, the most animal welfare, environmentally and human friendly farm in the world. Passionate farmer and co-founder Ruud Zanders told us everything about the world's food problem, and the joys and sorrows of farmers and chickens.

 

Poultry farmer's dilemmas

The story starts right after the Second World War. One of the aims of the Marshall Plan was to make as much food as possible available at a low price. The Netherlands developed into an international forerunner in the field of efficient food production. The motto was to produce as much as possible at the lowest possible costs. Livestock farms became larger and larger, with less concern for man, environment and animal. We are struggling with manure surplus, have to import animal feed from other parts of the world and not all animals are living in circumstances that can bear the light of day. And the farmers? They are having a hard time too. In as little as 50 years, public demonstrations changed their angle from 'we demand meat' to 'make mincemeat of the meat industry'. Where is the end to this?

We are eating the future

Large parts of the world's population eat little to no meat. But as their welfare increases, they are looking at the Western world as an example and start to eat more and more meat. But are we actually setting the right example? The meat industry is growing much faster than the world's population. If we do not adjust our diet, we will have to produce as much food in the next 50 years as we have during the past 4,000 years. Meanwhile, chickens and other animals are competing with humans for grains and other valuable resources and clean water. We cannot solve this with even more efficient production methods. We will really have to eat differently.

 

Will eating meat become the new smoking?

At the moment, 5% of the Dutch population does not eat meat (vegetarians) and 30% consciously eats less meat (flexitarians). Most of them do so on account of animal welfare, religion or health reasons, but by now, there are climatarians as well. These are people who have adjusted their diet because of the climate. A mature person needs about 60 grams of protein daily. The Wageningen University has calculated that we can feed the entire global population if we take 7 to 27 gram of this daily protein need from animal sources and consume the remainder in vegetable form. If we continue to eat like we do now, it will become too much of a drain on farmland for animal feed, greenhouse gas emissions and the intensive use of water will contribute to climate change, and will not improve the lives of farmers and local residents.

Kipster does things differently

During the past few years, the Kipster team cooperated with the Dierenbescherming (Animal Protection), Milieudefensie (Environmental Defense), Urgenda and the Wageningen University to develop an entirely new chicken farm. The first one of this type is now operating in Noord-Limburg. The white chickens eat 5% less than other chickens, and food from residual flows unfit for human consumption at that. The eggs are sold to Lidl Netherlands, at a price which is fair for both the farmer and the consumer. The roosters are not gassed, but are processed into burgers and other products, like the hens that have stopped laying. Manure is dried and sold to farmers. Special ventilation systems prevent employees and the neighbors from inhaling particulate matter. And the solar panels on the roof of the roomy stables produce so much electricity that, in addition to eggs, meat and manure, Kipster supplies energy as well. Kipster is doing well: the eggs are snapped up so fast that Kipster is actively looking for new locations for expansion now.

 

Example is better than precept

The average Dutchman eats 70 to 75 gram animal protein per day. Still too much to serve as an example as food production champion. That is why we were served a delicious vegetarian buffet after this inspiring story. On the terrace in the Limburg sun, we had plenty of material to talk about (but without the fine particle material).

Have you missed this special meeting of the VCV Circle Sustainability? Kipster is open to the public each day from 10 AM until sundown. For more information, please visit the Kipster website