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Data show pork producers care about environment

Courtesy of National Pork Board wind turbine on hog farm
MEASURE TO MANAGE: Saying your hog farm is environmentally friendly and proving it are two different things. An on-farm sustainability report will help you put metrics where your mouth is.
Hog Outlook: An on-farm report details pork producer sustainability metrics and ways to improve.

Pig farmers care. They care about the pigs in their barns. They care about the world around them, and they care about their communities.

A study completed a few years back found that over the past 50 years, U.S. pig farmers have reduced their impact on the environment by using 75.9% less land, 25.1% less water, 7% less energy, and they have 7.7% lower carbon emissions per pound of pork produced.

Still, agriculture in general receives a bad rap when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, when in reality agriculture accounts for 9% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and pork production accounts for less than 0.3%.

Even though livestock production has increased dramatically over the years, producers have been able to keep GHG emissions in check through improved feed efficiencies, better manure management and efficient use of the land used to grow crops to feed livestock.

These are definitely feathers in the cap for the industry as a whole, but just how much do you care? How does your hog farm stack up with the industry standards?

Walk the walk

U.S. pig farmers have been practicing the six industry-developed “We Care” principles of doing what’s right for food safety, animal well-being, people, public health, the environment and the community.

You may “talk the talk,” but do you truly “walk the walk” on your farm? How closely do you follow these We Care principles on your farm? As they say, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

The national Pork Checkoff encourages pig farmers across the country to request a customized on-farm sustainability report to help measure and document continuous improvement in building on the We Care principles.

The Pork Checkoff is working with a third-party independent company that will collect data from participating farmers. Through these data, individual pork producers will get a “report card” on the impact of their farm, both in the barns and in their fields.

Participation, though voluntary, is strongly encouraged, and individual producer information will be held confidential. Individual producers will find these data helpful, not only to know how they are doing, but they also may use the information when speaking with their lender or with community groups.

They may also see fit to use the report’s findings as basis for neighbors or county commissioners when trying to site a new farm.

At a national level, these data will be aggregated and allow such organizations as the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council to advocate of behalf of the entire pork industry to consumers and customers, both domestically and globally.

Step up to see how much you care by requesting an on-farm sustainability report.

Pig heart transplant update

In an earlier Hog Outlook column, I wrote of a Maryland man receiving a pig’s heart to replace his faulty one.

It was too early to tell if the pig heart would indeed keep David Bennett Sr. alive. Sadly, Bennett passed away in early March, two months after receiving the genetically modified pig’s heart.

According to a post on the website of the University of Maryland Medical Center where the operation was performed, “The transplanted heart performed very well for several weeks without any signs of rejection.”

Using the pig heart was a last-ditch effort to save Bennett’s life. The doctors knew that, and they informed Bennett that was the case. But, as Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, who performed the surgery, says, “As with any first-in-the-world transplant surgery, this one led to valuable insights that will hopefully inform transplant surgeons to improve outcomes and potentially provide life-saving benefits to future patients.”

A setback in research, even one such as this with the loss of a man’s life, does not mean all future such research should be discontinued. Griffith say the insights learned thanks to Bennett’s bravery may pay big dividends down the road for those needing new hearts in the future.

Schulz, a Farm Progress senior writer, grew up on the family hog farm in southern Minnesota, before a career in ag journalism, including National Hog Farmer.

TAGS: Livestock
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