A major step has been taken in Atria's chicken chain towards completely soya-free feed. In late 2019, the proportion of Finnish peas in chicken feed overtook ground soya for the first time. This year, the proportion of Finnish peas will rise to about 13% whereas the proportion of soya is estimated to decrease to less than 10%.
"We at Atria are committed to a carbon-neutral food chain and aim to increasingly move from imported soya to domestic protein feed. Our long-term objective is to phase out soya completely. We have therefore started to look for Finnish alternatives to substitute soya," says Anne Rauhala, Development Manager, Poultry Feeds, at Atria.
In terms of animal nutrition, soya is good protein raw material but, particularly in South America, cultivation of soya causes land-use change affecting, among other things, rain forests. Atria only uses certified, responsibly produced soya in its animal feeds, where soya producers are committed to sustainable production and rainforest conservation. All soya used in Atria comes from North America.
The principal feed raw materials in Atria's chicken chain are Finnish de-hulled feed oats and feed wheat. Peas and soya provide the supplementary source of protein in the feed.
Animal welfare top priority
Thanks to domestic sources of protein, the use of soya has reduced since 2013–2014 when soya constituted approximately 15% of chicken feed. Protein-rich de-hulled oats are well suited for poultry, but for example broad bean and rapeseed meal contain substances that in large quantities are harmful to chickens.
Pea cultivation in Finland has been very limited up to date, but new varieties have increased crop certainty and availability. Atria's own feed company A-Rehu has actively encouraged farmers to grow peas.
"Peas yield a good harvest even in dry summers, and, as a result of their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, peas enable arable farms to use crop rotation. For chickens, peas have proven to be excellent raw material, and there is no limit to how much of it can be used,” says Rauhala.
Thus our objective, entirely soya-free chicken feeding, is another step closer. However, production volumes of Finnish protein raw material are not yet sufficient to substitute soya completely. The protein content of peas is 20% whereas soya has a protein content of 50 %, so a higher amount of peas is required than soya. Changes in feed must also be carried out gradually, so that their impact on poultry can be monitored.
"We always put animal welfare first," Rauhala says.