For America's pork producers, focusing on the principles of Earth Day is a daily part of how they manage their farms. Yet, even with a long history of being good stewards of the environment, producers continue to seek ways to improve their overall sustainability to benefit their animals, their neighbors, their local community and consumers worldwide.
"To us, sustainability is the ability to endure," said Randy Spronk, a farrow-to-finish pork producer from Edgerton, Minn., who serves on the National Pork Board's Environmental Committee. "That's why pork producers support the development of swine operations of all types and sizes that safeguard animal health and welfare, improve the food safety of pork and are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable."
Pork production contributes only 0.33% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, every pound of pork produced in the United States today has a smaller carbon footprint than it used to have 20 years ago, due to improved production methods employed by producers over the years. Things such as:
- Improved feeding programs that carefully match swine diets to the nutrition needs of the pigs' based on their sex, age and stage of growth ensures the pig's health and welfare without overfeeding nutrients that end up in the manure.
- Using manure as a natural fertilizing agent to replace or offset the use of commercial fertilizers that are made from petroleum products. This not only helps reduce the energy use associated with making the commercial fertilizers, but also helps build the carbon content and moisture-holding capacity of soils.
- Improved manure management and application practices, such as following carefully developed manure management plans that match the manure nutrient applied to the nutrient needs of the crops to be grown. Also, injection or incorporation of the manure nutrients at the time of application, not only ensures getting the full fertilizer value of the manure, but guards against runoff that could impact water quality.
- Controlling odor. Windbreaks are an important feature of many swine farms, because the trees help filter the air and reduce the potential transfer of odor from the farm.
"These are just a few examples of how producers strive to be good neighbors in the communities in which they live," said Stokes.
As the pork industry plays its part to feed an ever-growing world population, the Pork Checkoff is developing new tools to help producers become more sustainable, Stokes added. A new carbon footprint calculator is in final stages of development that will help producers identify areas on their farms where they can become more efficient and potentially reduce their carbon footprint. This tool is expected to be launched at World Pork Expo in Des Moines in June.
"We want to ensure that the resources required in pork production are used as efficiently as possible, with little or no waste," Spronk said. "By focusing on environmental sustainability, we can help protect precious resources for future generations."
For more information on how America's Pork Producers are focusing on sustainability, visit www.pork.org.
The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health, pork safety and environmental management. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or go to pork.org.