Smithfield aims to be America’s first carbon-negative meatpacker by 2030

28 Sep 2020

Earlier this month, U.S. pork producer Smithfield announced that it will render all of its company-owned operations carbon negative by 2030, meaning that it will remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it produces. This ambitious plan accelerates the company’s efforts from 2016 where it committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025.

“To achieve this ambitious new carbon negative objective, work is already underway and will include a variety of strategies, including renewable natural gas ventures, regenerative agricultural practices, improvements in our animals’ diets, renewable electricity purchases and transportation, logistics and packaging projects,” Stewart Leeth, vice president and chief sustainability officer of Smithfield said in a statement.

Smithfield aims to be America’s first carbon-negative meatpacker by 2030

The company said that it will achieve this goal without purchasing carbon credits to offset its emissions, a practice that has been deemed controversial.

One-third of greenhouse gases stem from the food system and an estimated 80% of those emissions come from agriculture. Since 1990, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture has increased by 10%, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The majority of these emissions are linked to livestock, and as Smithfield is the fourth largest meatpacker in the U.S., achieving a carbon-negative output will have a large effect on the country’s total greenhouse gasses.

Already the manufacturer has a biogas program that captures methane from hog manure on farms and transforms it into renewable gas, which the company says is an approach that removes 25 times more GHGs from the atmosphere than are released from other sources, including power plants, homes, vehicles and businesses. At several of its 40 processing facilities, the company is also generating renewable natural gas from its wastewater treatment operations.

Not only does this waste diversion tactic create energy, but it contributes to Smithfield’s goal of reducing the amount of solid waste sent to landfills by 75% by 2025 and certifying that three-quarters of its domestic facilities are zero-waste in the same time period.

Another component of the carbon-negative plan involves Smithfield reducing the distance traveled by its carrier fleet by 11.2 million miles annually. This reduction in mileage will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 13,000 metric tons, which is the equivalent of removing 2,800 passenger cars.

This ambitious plan exceeds the goals of this meatpacker's peers, which are primarily aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. However, with 20 years less to achieve this goal, Smithfield has a lot of work to do in a very small amount of time.

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