The UK imports over 3 million metric tons of soy each year, with the majority of it coming from just three different countries (Argentina, Brazil and the US). Soy is in heavy demand as a source of protein for livestock but the supply chain is under stress due to soy’s link to deforestation and associated land-use change, green house gas emissions, climate change and global competition for the resource, including China’s rising demand in the global market.

Key messages

  • The most severe, soy-related risk the UK industry is currently facing is deforestation and the emissions associated with the release of carbon when deforestation takes place (Scope 3 emissions).
  • The livestock industry is the most exposed to soy supply or price shocks, as around 90% of imported soy is used as feed in the UK. The poultry sector is particularly exposed, as it is most dependent on soy and least able to substitute it in the poultry diet in comparison to diets of other livestock.
  • Traders and feed compounders (those who sell soy and feed mix within the industry) are likely less affected by a soy supply or price shock, as price changes are passed to their customers.
  • There are various opportunities for industry actors to respond to the risks associated with soy, such as switching to alternative feed crops, increasing the ability to source from alternative regions, and using traceable or certified sustainable soy.

Policy recommendations

  • Industry actors (traders and soy processors, animal feed manufacturers, livestock farmers and meat producers, retailers and food service industry) need to come together under a single ‘ask’ to generate a market requirement for increased transparency in the soy supply chain, extending beyond UK traders. The recently launched UK Soy Manifesto provides a potential platform for this.
  • Due diligence legislation should be aligned with existing reporting frameworks.
  • Research into alternative feed crops needs to be accompanied by fuller assessments of the economic and environmental trade-offs involved.
  • Contracts for sourcing sustainable soy must be long-term focused. This will give soy farmers the assurance that customers will follow through on their commitments to purchase sustainable soy from farmers who provide the relevant accreditations.