“Earth Day is an annual event, which will be celebrated around the globe this year on April 22,” says Everett Forkner, National Pork Board president and producer from Richards, MO. “But for pork producers, every day is Earth Day,” he says.
America’s pork producers understand that providing a safe, wholesome food supply for consumers is a great responsibility – and one that must take into account many factors, including the impact on the environment.
“No one understands the importance of pork quality, safety, responsible production and continuous improvement better than America’s pork producers. Good environmental stewardship is not only our legacy, but our future. Our children and grandchildren breathe this air and drink this water,” he says.
Forkner points to the pork industry’s We Care initiative that spells out the principles that America’s pork producers are committed to demonstrating:
• Produce safe food.
• Protect and promote animal well-being.
• Ensure practices to protect public health.
• Safeguard natural resources.
• Provide a safe work environment.
• Contribute to a better quality of life in their communities.
“We not only have an obligation to a set of ethical principles in how we produce food, but we demonstrate those principles on our farms in how we care for our animals, the environment and our communities,” Forkner adds.
Today, under the umbrella of environmental sustainability, U.S. pork producers have taken public trust to the next level with their Pork Checkoff investment in research involving the four pillars of environmental sustainability:
• Carbon footprint
• Water footprint
• Air footprint
• Land footprint
The insights and innovations found from this research will help America’s pork producers maintain their role as leaders in protecting the natural resources they manage on their farms. This is one of the ethical principles of the U.S. pork industry’s We Care initiative. America’s pork producers are determined to address this important area and capitalize on opportunities that make good environmental sense and are economically sustainable.
In June 2008, the National Pork Board directed staff to assess and better understand the pork industry’s carbon footprint and associated challenges and opportunities for the U.S. swine industry. Although an analysis of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual greenhouse gas reports shows that the relative contribution from swine production to the overall national greenhouse gas inventory is extremely small (approximately 0.35%), the U.S. pork industry moved forward to better understand their carbon footprint and opportunities to make further improvements.
The National Pork Board funded research efforts at the University of Arkansas’ Applied Sustainability Center to identify and quantify the baseline carbon footprint involved with pork production. This Checkoff-funded research has completed:
• A review of available literature and information related to energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from pork production.
• A summary or “scan level” life-cycle assessment of energy use and emissions across the entire pork chain, including feed crop production, feed formulation, swine production, transportation, meat processing and retail components.
• A detailed, in-depth lifecycle assessment of the on-farm animal production component covering all aspects of raising animals, including manure-management practices.
• A producer-friendly software tool called the Live Swine Carbon Footprint Calculator. It calculates the greenhouse gas emissions involved in sow and grow-finish production, which can help pork producers identify areas for potential improved efficiency. The calculator also can be used to evaluate prospective changes in operations by modeling what-if scenarios relative to the potential impacts on the farm’s carbon footprint.
The National Pork Board is currently working with the University of Arkansas on an enhanced version of the calculator that will include an economic analysis module to help pork producers understand what impact changes in operations would have on operational costs, as well as their carbon footprint.
In 2006, the U.S. pork industry committed $6 million to fund the pork portion of a National Air Emissions Monitoring Study, which was conducted by Purdue University under the close supervision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This study was conducted specifically to collect scientifically valid data to: 1) accurately assess emissions from livestock operations and compile a database for estimation of emission rates, and 2) promote a national consensus for emissions-estimation methods/procedures from livestock operations.
The data from this study is helping to put together a Pork Checkoff-funded research effort to develop a process-based air emissions model specific to swine production systems in the United States. The two-year effort being conducted by a multi-disciplinary team of scientists from several universities will be completed in early 2013 and will result in a tool that will help pork producers understand and quantify air emissions from their swine production system.
The National Pork Board has funded research efforts at the University of Arkansas’ Applied Sustainability Center to identify and quantify the baseline water footprint involved with pork production. The Checkoff-funded research will be completed by the end of 2012 and will include:
• A review of available literature and information related to water use associated with pork production.
• A summary or “scan level” lifecycle assessment of water use across the entire pork chain, including feed crop production, feed formulation, swine production, transportation, meat processing and retail components.
• A detailed, in-depth lifecycle assessment of the on-farm water use related to the live swine production component covering all aspects of raising the animals.
• A user-friendly software tool that will calculate the water use involved in sow and grow-finish production, which can help pork producers identify areas for potential improved efficiency. This calculator also will be used to evaluate prospective changes in operations by modeling what-if scenarios relative to the potential impacts on the facility carbon footprint.
The National Pork Board plans to fund research to identify and quantify the land footprint of U.S. swine production in 2013-2014.
As each of the four pillars of environmental sustainability are completed they will be integrated with the others, as will the calculator models, into a unified environmental sustainability tool. U.S. pork producers can use this tool to further their ongoing efforts at protecting the natural environment in all of their farming activities and further their ongoing efforts and commitment to ethical, responsible and sustainable swine production.
For more information, contact Allan Stokes at AStokes@pork.org or (515) 223-3447.