Environmental impact of replacing soybean meal with rapeseed meal in diets of finishing pigs

H.H.E. Van Zanten*, P. Bikker, H. Mollenhorst, B.G. Meerburg, I.J.M. De Boer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The major impact of the livestock sector on the environment may be reduced by feeding agricultural co-products to animals. Since the last decade, co-products from biodiesel production, such as rapeseed meal (RSM), became increasingly available in Europe. Consequently, an increase in RSM content in livestock diets was observed at the expense of soybean meal (SBM) content. Cultivation of SBM is associated with high environmental impacts, especially when emissions related to land use change (LUC) are included. This study aims to assess the environmental impact of replacing SBM with RSM in finishing pig diets. As RSM has a lower nutritional value, we assessed the environmental impact of replacing SBM with RSM using scenarios that differed in handling changes in nutritional level. Scenario 1 (S1) was the basic scenario containing SBM. In scenario 2 (S2), RSM replaced SBM based on CP content, resulting in reduced energy and amino acid content, and hence an increased feed intake to realize the same growth rate. The diet of scenario 3 (S3) was identical to S2; however, we assumed that pigs were not able to increase their feed intake, leading to reduced growth performance. In scenario 4 (S4), the energy and amino acid content were increased to the same level of S1. Pig performances were simulated using a growth model. We analyzed the environmental impact of each scenario using life-cycle assessment, including processes of feed production, manure management, piglet production, enteric fermentation and housing. Results show that, expressed as per kg of BW, replacing SBM with RSM in finishing pig diets marginally decreased global warming potential (GWP) and energy use (EU) but decreased land use (LU) up to 12%. Between scenarios, S3 had the maximum potential to reduce the environmental impact, due to a lower impact per kg of feed and an increased body protein-to-lipid ratio of the pigs, resulting in a better feed conversion ratio. Optimization of the body protein-to-lipid ratio, therefore, might result in a reduced environmental impact of pig production. Furthermore, the impact of replacing SBM with RSM changed only marginally when emissions related to direct (up to 2.9%) and indirect LUC (up to 2.5%) were included. When we evaluated environmental impacts of feed production only, which implies excluding other processes along the chain as is generally found in the literature, GWP decreased up to 10%, including LUC, EU up to 5% and LU up to 16%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1866-1874
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • environmental impact
  • land use
  • pigs
  • rapeseed
  • soybean


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