DES MOINES – US pork producers continue seeking ways to improve their overall sustainability to benefit their animals, communities and consumers worldwide, according to the National Pork Board (NPB).

"To us, sustainability is the ability to endure," said Randy Spronk, who serves on the NPB’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 one-third of 1% (0.33%) of total US greenhouse gas emissions, according to US Environmental Protection Agency. And every lb. of pork produced in the US today has a smaller carbon footprint than it had 20 years ago, thanks to improved production methods employed by producers over the years.

Practices 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 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. 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," Spronk said.

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, Spronk 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 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."