Pork Reduces Its Carbon Footprint by More than 1/3

Filed under: Bites & Bits , Author: Caron Golden , May 6, 2013

As the world celebrated another Earth Day recently, research shows that America’s pork producers have made huge improvements in environmental management over the last 50 years. The research found that modern pork production methods have led to a 35% decrease in the carbon footprint, a 41% reduction in water usage and a 78% drop in land needed to produce a pound of pork compared with a 1959 baseline.

“As a pork producer, I’m proud of the accomplishments we’ve made as an industry,” said Conley Nelson, National Pork Board president and producer from Algona, Iowa. “But today’s competitive market demands that we do even more to improve how we produce pork. That’s why pork producers are working together to fund new environmental research that will help us build on the progress we’ve made over the past 50 years.”

A mixture of chopped portobello mushrooms, cheddar and maple syrup tops these bone-in chops. Courtesy of the National Pork Board

A mixture of chopped portobello mushrooms, cheddar and maple syrup tops these bone-in chops. Courtesy of the National Pork Board

Several on-farm practices have helped improve U.S. pork’s overall environmental sustainability. These were primarily related to the continuous improvements made over the years in how farmers care for their animals through better nutrition, health and overall management, as well as through improvements in crop production. One example in the report shows that feed efficiency of pigs has improved 33%, which means that animals consume less feed for every pound of meat produced. This is a major factor that reduces both the amount of land required for growing grain and the amount of manure produced by pigs.

While the recent data on the sustainability metrics offer a positive reflection on past performance, Nelson said today’s pork producers are not standing still in terms of environmental progress. “To us, Earth Day is much more than a single day or week of heightened environmental awareness—it’s an engrained part of how we care for our animals, the environment and our communities as we provide healthy pork products for our consumers.”

The National Pork Board has defined four pillars of environmental sustainability—carbon footprint, water footprint, air footprint and land footprint. According to Nelson, the Pork Checkoff is making inroads into all of these areas with farmer-directed research and the creation of on-farm tools. Most notably, producers can now use the Live Swine Carbon Footprint Calculator to calculate the impact and improvements on their own farms. As each of the four pillars of environmental sustainability are completed they will be integrated with the others to provide a tool that pork producers can use to further their ongoing efforts to protect the natural environment in all of their farming activities.

For recipes featuring today’s pork, visit www.porkbeinspired.com.

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Caron Golden


Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.


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    I would like to know more specifics. For all we know the need for less feed might be caused from increase in hormones and steroids. How do these improvements in environmental impacts effect the welfare of the animal itself. The only solution is for Americans to reduce the amount of animal protein they consume so there is less need for factory farming.

    Comment by Terri — May 7, 2013 @ 9:11 am

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    I agree with Terri on the need to reduce our animal protein consumption. I do think this is positive news. Progress is normally incremental, as frustrating as that can be. I’d love to see the industry address the use of chemicals: hormones and antibiotics. The environmental impact is astounding. The ‘supplements’ turn the pigs’ waste into toxic sludge that poisons the environment.

    Industrial farming is unsustainable; destroying the planet. If we don’t change how we eat, we are going the way of the dinosaur, in time.

    Comment by David Bair — May 8, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

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