Consumers are demanding more from their food. Today, restaurant guests are weighing multiple factors when deciding where and what to order. They want food that tastes good, but they also want to know that their food was produced responsibly, especially in terms of its social and environmental impact. Recent research from Pork Checkoff indicates climate change is one of the most important societal issues society is facing today1. The U.S. pork industry is up for the challenge—the recently released U.S. Pork Industry Sustainability Report details how America’s pig farmers are united in their goal of building on past success to achieve sustainability goals and be recognized leaders in sustainability. As a result, restaurants can feel confident about the pork on their menus and assure customers that America’s pig farmers are raising the protein responsibly.
Companies strive to meet growing demand for sustainable pork
Business leaders across the food industry continue to focus on reducing the environmental impact but are running into challenges, including an insufficient supply chain of sustainable materials.2 With this in mind, the U.S. pork industry recently completed a stakeholder-led approach to help drive better outcomes and solve business-critical sustainability challenges.
The National Pork Board,using Pork Checkoff funding, andin partnership with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and their respective stakeholders, recently announced the U.S. Pork Industry Sustainability Goals. These goals were developed in alignment with the industry’s long-standing We Care® Ethical Principles and designed to address 15 of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Continuous improvement in sustainability is something all producers can explore,” said Marlowe Ivey, pig farmer in North Carolina and executive director of Feed the Dialogue. “With the future of farming being in technology like biodigesters, we have the opportunity to make farms completely carbon neutral while powering our entire operations in some cases.”
When it comes to sourcing sustainable ingredients, the pork industry can help restaurants make progress towards their own sustainability goals. The pork industry’s 2021 Sustainability Report elevates their longstanding commitment to do what’s right for people, pigs and the planet. The pork industry set ambitious goals for future improvement, committing to further progress on environmental, societal and economic measures, while outlining a plan for transparent and frequent reporting.
One specific goal is protecting the planet’s natural resources, water, soil and air, by improving water use efficiency, soil, land and biodiversity and water quality. For the last six decades, pig farmers reduced their land, water and energy use by 75%, 25% and 7%, respectively, resulting in a nearly 8% smaller environmental footprint3. By 2030, the pork industry plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% from the 2015 baseline.
Another specific goal, more related to social sustainability, is a commitment to end-to-end certification that is fully transparent, including through Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus). Currently, more than 85% of pork comes from farms that are PQA Plus certified, which ensures pigs are:
- Raised in the ideal environment, with their welfare in mind
- Checked daily for their health and well-being
- Given access to high-quality food
- Cared for according to plans developed in collaboration with veterinarians, and seen by vets as necessary
Maintaining a sustainable pork supply
To achieve this progress, the pork industry is taking an action-based and scientific approach to set current benchmarks and create goals for future improvement. Progress will be measured on-farm and across the industry using tools that enable the pork industry to make better, data-driven decisions. Each goal will be tracked and reported regularly in alignment with best practice metrics and disclosures for corporate sustainability, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
“Technology has given us the ability to take every single thing we do with each pig and verify it – whether it’s how much water or food they eat or drink, the technologies we use to keep them healthy, or how many times a person comes into the barn and how they interact with the pigs,” said Lukas Fricke, production operations manager at Union Farms in Ulysses, Neb.
To learn more about America’s pig farmers’ commitment to people, pigs and the planet, click here.
1Checkoff funded research with Heart + Mind Strategies, Oct 2021
2Deloitte 2022 CxO Sustainability Report, 2022 https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/2022-deloitte-global-cxo-sustainability-report.pdf
3University of Arkansas. 2018. A Retrospective Assessment of US Pork Production: 1960 to 2015, page 2. https://porkcheckoff.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/16-214- THOMA-final-rpt.pdf
This post is sponsored by National Pork Board