SMITHFIELD, Va. – Smithfield Foods Inc. has begun engaging 80 percent of its grain suppliers for its hog feed in farming practices that are both sustainable and reduce the cost of production for grain farmers.

According to Smithfield, grain production is the first step in the vertically integrated company’s supply chain, making this accomplishment one of the key ways Smithfield is working toward its goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25 percent by 2025 throughout its supply chain.

case study released by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), authored by Datu Research, reported Smithfield exceeded the goal it set in 2013 to engage 75 percent of its directly sourced grain  supply by utilizing practices that reduce fertilizer loss and improve soil health.

“This accomplishment is a significant milestone in our company’s holistic approach to reducing carbon emissions across our entire supply chain,” said Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and CEO of Smithfield. “It is important to note that it would not have been possible without the unified efforts of grain farmers, our company, Environmental Defense Fund, and other collaborative partners. This is an important achievement for everyone involved and for our environment.”

In 2018, Smithfield purchased grain from producers who use efficient fertilizer and soil health methods across approximately 560,000 acres of land.

A study conducted in 2017 by the Univ. of Minnesota’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise, a Smithfield partner, estimated that grain accounted for 15 percent to 20 percent of the company’s carbon footprint. To reduce the environmental impact of its grain supply, Smithfield is working with EDF by creating SmithfieldGro, a Smithfield agronomics program. The program works to help grain suppliers implement efficient fertilizer optimization and soil health initiatives by providing:

  • On-staff agronomists who demonstrate strategies and provide free agronomic advice to enable farmers to incorporate more efficient fertilizer practices.
  • Access to reduced-price tools and programs that assist farmers in improving fertilizer usage, crop production, water quality, and soil health.
  • Economic incentives to diversify crop production and create a market for winter wheat cover crops.

“Smithfield exceeded its grain sustainability goal in only five years,” said David Festa, EDF senior vice president of Ecosystems. “This milestone adds to the growing evidence that improved farming practices can simultaneously benefit farm finances, water quality, and wildlife habitat. Smithfield is an industry leader in tackling supply chain GHG emissions and making the agricultural system more climate resilient. We encourage other food companies and retailers to pursue similarly ambitious, measurable targets.”