Integral chain management for high-quality veal

Published: 09-02-2016, | Member: VanDrie Group

From veal to calfskin, every link in the chain is closely watched by VanDrie Group companies. The group monitors the quality of all its final products and has developed its own extensively computerized chain management and quality assurance system. “Our integral approach allows us to optimize quality every step of the way. And sustainable production is high on our agenda too,” says Henny Swinkels, Director of Corporate Affairs at VanDrie Group.

VanDrie Group exports veal all over the world. “Europe is our home market, but we’re aiming to conquer the world,” says Swinkels. With annual sales exceeding two billion Euros, production locations in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and Italy and 2,300 employees, the company is the biggest of its kind in Europe. Swinkels says VanDrie Group is unique because it covers the entire chain. “We own not only calf husbandries, but also calf feed manufacturers and companies supplying dairy raw materials, slaughterhouses and a calfskin processing plant. All of them work closely together, which gives us a chance to monitor the quality of our veal from start to finish.”

To this end, VanDrie Group has developed Safety Guard, its own quality control system built on a tracking and tracing platform. Each calf receives a unique number at birth; all subsequent data are linked to this number. This means the animal, and its meat, can be traced through the entire supply chain. The system records what each individual calf eats and this data is then linked to its growth. Calf farmers and feed suppliers exchange information so each calf’s feed composition can be optimized and each animal eats the right proteins at the right time. Safety Guard ensures that every piece of veal meets the taste, juiciness and food safety standards. The system also guarantees that VanDrie’s products meet all environmental and animal welfare requirements.

Comprehensive approach
Calf welfare is high on VanDrie Group’s agenda, not only on the farm, but also during transport. All cattle trucks have drinking facilities, air conditioning and shock absorbers. “We were the first meat packer to receive the ‘Better Life Quality Mark’ [Beter Leven Keurmerk] from the Dutch Animal Protection Agency,” Swinkels says proudly.

VanDrie Group’s comprehensive approach includes environmental care. Its companies are working on upcycling manure. “Manure contains many valuable components such as amino acids, potassium, proteins and phosphate that can be removed through ‘cracking’,” Swinkels explains. “These natural resources are likely to become scarce in the near future. We’re anticipating these developments. For this Manure with Value [‘Mest vol Waarden’] project, we’re collaborating with business partners beyond our production chain and with Wageningen University.”

Another example of VanDrie Group’s CSR initiatives is offering non-cured calfskins and using less salt for preserving cured skins. “The more salt we use, the more brine we need to desalinate. Using more salt also increases processing time and the number of transportation movements. Right now, we use about six kilos of salt per calfskin. That’s an average decrease of almost 1 kilo since 2009. By 2014, more than 30 percent of our skins were non-cured. This means the tanneries receiving our skins can use less chemicals, which is beneficial for their water treatment. This is one of the latest innovations that show how serious we are about sparing the environment,” says Swinkels.

Exchanging knowledge
Corporate social responsibility is a given for VanDrie Group, Swinkels says. “Society is putting an increasingly high premium on animal welfare. At the same time, the world population and global meat consumption continue to grow. In 2050, there will be 9 billion mouths to feed while essential raw materials are becoming more scarce. We are taking on the challenge of meeting the growing demand for meat products and reconciling this with a sustainable mode of production. We’re continuously researching new resources and exploring how proteins can be used more efficiently. For R&D purposes, we frequently collaborate with other companies. We believe knowledge exchange is the way forward for the whole agro-food chain.”

VanDrie Group