The Smart Meat 2030 Manifesto – Sustainable Management and Advanced Responsible Technologies for Meat Ecosystems and Agri-food Tracking – for the digital sustainability of the Italian livestock sector was signed today in the Senate. The Manifesto was signed during the press conference for the presentation of the Report ‘The digital transition of Italian meat supply chains’ called on the initiative of Senator Antonio De Poli, in collaboration with the Foundation for Digital Sustainability. The study was carried out by the Foundation for Digital Sustainability with the scientific contribution of the Carni Sostenibili study centre, the association that brings together the main acronyms of meat and cured meat producers in Italy.

In the intentions of the promoters, the Manifesto is open to associations, companies and institutions that wish to sign the commitment, collaborating in the construction of an even more advanced, sustainable and technological system. Smart Meat 2030 was created to support companies in the Italian livestock sector in their journey towards the 2030 European sustainability objectives: from the valorisation of digital technology and digital sustainability as pillars of meat production chains to the need for infrastructure, skills and training; from the construction of data driven ecosystems to the adoption of advanced technologies up to the monitoring of emissions and animal welfare; from the issue of IT security to the strategic role of the institutions. There are 10 points that make up the Manifesto and outline a path to raise awareness of the most urgent issues to support companies in the sector towards the digital transition with a view to environmental, economic and social sustainability.

The Report ‘The digital transition of Italian meat supply chains’ is the first study that analyzes how digital technologies can improve the allocation of physical, natural and human capital in companies in the meat supply chain, reducing costs and gaining efficiency. The Report examines the role of digital agriculture in improving the equity and environmental sustainability of food systems, highlighting challenges that may emerge along the way. Furthermore, the study represents a tool for reflection to facilitate understanding and the transition towards a new production reality for all actors, from primary to services, involved in meat production. During the analysis, the impact and implications of digitalisation, understood as the insertion of technology, and of digital transformation, understood as the effect of digitalisation on processes and meat supply chains, were examined in a critical and detailed manner, evaluating the repercussions on terms of sustainability.

The study takes a detailed photograph of the entire sector. Today in Europe there are 9.1 million agricultural companies, of which 3.2 million companies are livestock and mixed, the overall agricultural production in European countries amounts to 537.5 billion euros, of which 206 billion comes from animal production . In our country, however, there are 166,460 livestock farms (131,110 specialized in cattle breeding, 28,550 for pigs and 6,800 for the poultry sector), with 513,000 employees (358,000 for the cattle sector, 91,000 for the pig sector and 64,000 for the poultry sector). In total, the livestock sector is worth 33 billion euros (11 billion for the agricultural phase, 22 billion for the industrial phase). With 3.69 million tonnes of meat produced, Italy ranks 5th in Europe, after Germany (7.92 million/tons), Spain (7.16 million/tons), France (5.42 million/tons ) and Poland (5.13 million/tons), but in second to last place in per capita meat consumption with 72 kg of apparent consumption per year, which corresponds to approximately 35.5 kg of real consumption, considering only the edible part of meat (net of bones, cartilage and fat).

The latest Istat data on innovation and digitalisation – 7th General Census of Agriculture outline a situation of lights and shadows: in total just over 15% of livestock farms are digitalised, a percentage which rises to 71.6% for the larger ones which exceed one hundred adult animals. What emerges from the Foundation’s report is that the meat supply chains, today, also following the investments made in the context of Industry 4.0 and those that can be addressed in the context of the Pnrr, are among those that could benefit most from an approach oriented towards digital sustainability, but in many cases they are only capturing the most marginal impacts. In fact, there are still many obstacles that limit its widespread diffusion: the lack of pervasive infrastructures, the poor diffusion of a digitally oriented culture in the sector and the difficulty of managing a process of change which, to be effective, must touch all the links of a complex and multifaceted value chain. Obstacles that have certainly slowed down, but not blocked the development of experiences, models and cases of excellence that demonstrate how these supply chains can be not only made more efficient, but sometimes revolutionized by digital transformation with a view to ever greater environmental, economic and social sustainability .

The Report also analyzes digital sustainability in meat farming in terms of optimizing the use of resources, improving animal welfare, reducing the ecological footprint of the entire supply chain. Technologies such as advanced IoT systems can monitor the conditions of animals and the environment in which they live in real time, allowing timely interventions that improve animal health and well-being and reduce the need for pharmacological treatments. Technologies such as advanced telemetry for information collection and predictive analytics are used to monitor the health and behavior of animals, with sensors collecting data on vital signs and activities, helping to prevent disease and improve living conditions. An approach that not only has a positive impact on the sustainability of operations, but which also has incremental effects on the quality of the finished product, as demonstrated by the studies collected in the report, which highlight a 20% decrease in the mortality rate and a 15% reduction in use of antibiotics through the applications of these technologies.

According to Stefano Epifani, president of the Foundation for Digital Sustainability, “it is of fundamental importance that we understand the profoundly transformative role of digitalisation in a complex supply chain such as that of meat. Thinking in terms of sustainability means thinking in systemic terms: on the one hand this entails the possibility of optimizing the efficiency/effectiveness ratio of farms, but on the other, however, the fact that as efficiency increases, complexity for the actors also increases of the supply chain. To manage this increase in complexity, digital tools are needed. And widespread culture to use them. But by using them we realize that they represent not only a great opportunity for the economic and social sustainability of livestock farming, but also an essential tool for improving their environmental sustainability”. And Epifani concludes “without counting the impacts of technologies such as AI, Big Data, IoT on animal welfare, which must be one of the priorities in building a truly sustainable digital supply chain ecosystem”.

For Giuseppe Pulina, president of Carni Sostenibili and full professor of Ethics and Sustainability of Livestock at the University of Sassari, “agricultural companies produce a lot of information, it has been estimated that by 2050 they will produce around 4.1 million data points per day, but today almost all of them are lost. The challenge is to use this information to increase production efficiency, reprogramming the systems digitally, pursuing the intelligent intensification of agro-zootechnical systems”. And the professor added: “We are at the dawn of a new revolution, that of digital transformation, if previously, starting from the 2000s, production increases were generated two-thirds by information and one-third by the inputs of water, land and energy , today we can aspire to ‘super sustainability’ where production increases are generated more than 100% by information and the reduction of inputs. In thermodynamic terms: the system produces more, consuming less”.

“Cisco has a mission to securely connect people and things, enabling us to leverage the opportunities of digital transformation. For us it is particularly important to contribute to creating an inclusive future for all and we pursue this objective by creating sustainable and circular technological solutions – says Angelo Fienga, director of Sustainable Solutions EMEA at Cisco – The Internet of Things is an enabling technology, which allows us to collect data very detailed from production chains and supply chains; it can help us understand how resources are used and how we can optimize them, also taking advantage of Artificial Intelligence to extract valuable information from the data. This allows us to improve processes both in terms of costs and environmental impact and creates the conditions to jointly pursue business objectives and a higher purpose of improvement for society”. “Thanks to the use of data and artificial intelligence it is possible to optimize the growth cycle of livestock, reduce waste in processing plants and increase efficiency in distribution. All this allows us to obtain constant and superior quality yields, improve animal health and reduce environmental impact, promoting a circular and sustainable economy”, says Francesco Frinchhillucci, Sales Director of Sas.