Trimming the pork: IonE research guides first major meat industry GHG reductions

Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, announced its commitment yesterday to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain 25 percent by 2025. The move is the first of its kind among large meat producers.

The NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise (NiSE), a strategic initiative of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, partnered with Smithfield and the Environmental Defense Fund to develop the science behind the commitment.

The NorthStar team improved a generic life cycle assessment for swine production, providing spatially explicit estimates of environmental impacts for the corn and manure components of their supply chain. This improved visibility into the major supply chain processes under Smithfield’s influence builds on NiSE’s supply chain transport model showing how corn and soy travel through the farm-to-feed-to-food pipeline in the U.S.

“Smithfield, through their collaboration with EDF, realizes that the better they can understand the complexity involved in making GHG commitments, the better chance they have to actually manage and reduce such emissions,” said Jennifer Schmitt, NiSE lead scientist.

The reductions made by Smithfield will benefit the environment by improving use of fertilizer on feed grain, improving manure management and increasing energy efficiency in processing and transportation. The magnitude of their total proposed reductions will be equivalent to taking around 900,000 cars off the road, according to Schmitt. Beyond the carbon reductions, there will be additional benefits including odor reductions, improvements to water quality and decreased respiratory irritants.

“Smithfield’s commitment and partnership is a great outcome of NiSE’s mission to work with the private sector on understanding the sustainability of production and consumption systems, with Smithfield benefiting from using our spatial sourcing tool and NiSE benefiting from further insight into a specific supply chain,” said Schmitt.

Read the press releases from EDF and Smithfield.

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