The Swiss Farmers’ Association has called on members to stop feeding dairy cows supplements that contain palm oil. The revelation has embarrassed the organisation that has been fighting against palm oil imports from Asia.
Swiss public television’s (SRF) Rundschau programme has revealed that some Swiss dairy farmers feed their cows palm oil supplements to boost milk production. Whilst there is nothing illegal about the practice, it does contradict efforts of the farming lobby to have palm oil imports curbed. The lobbying efforts, coordinated with environmental organisations, are designed to protect Swiss rape seed farmers from being muscled out of the market by cheaper palm oil imports.
Many palm oil plantations are also highly criticised for destroying natural habitats in Asia.
“Palm oil does not belong in animal feed,” Farmers’ Association president Markus Ritter told SRF. “This practice must stop.”
However, the demand could be difficult to put into practice. Last year, farmers used some 5,000 tonnes – or 200,000 sacks – of palm oil saturated feed. Replacing this supplement with rape seed oil products would result in an additional annual cost of CHF1 million ($1.02 million) to Swiss farmers.
One Swiss supplier of palm oil animal feed, Erbo Spraytec, defended the product, saying it was the friendliest supplement for cows’ stomachs. The firm said European rape seed was too expensive and claimed that it used 50% certified sustainable palm oil.
The Swiss Milk Producers’ Association said its members used far less palm oil than in neighbouring countries, emphasizing that quantities used in Switzerland are “very low”.