Caring for the environment is a priority for pork producers. They have proven that by making environment one of the six We Care Ethical Principles that guide pork producers in everything they do. Through their commitment to sustainability and continuous improvement, pork producers have steadily reduced their carbon footprint over the last half-century. Sharing the story of that commitment with others is the next step.
A 2021 Pork Industry Sustainability Report by the National Pork Board shows pork producers reduced their land use by 75% from 1960 to 2015. They also reduced water use by 25% and energy use by 7% in that time frame, creating 8% fewer carbon emissions.
“We know that the U.S. Pork industry is part of the solution,” Ashley McDonald, assistant vice president of sustainability for the National Pork Board, said during the 2022 World Pork Expo. “We do things every day on our farms across the U.S. that are sustainable, but we haven’t done a good job telling that.”
Ryan Samuel, South Dakota State University Extension Swine Specialist, is encouraging South Dakota hog farmers to join the effort to keep telling that story through the Pork Checkoff-funded project. Producers can request to participate and to receive an individualized Your Farm Sustainability Report to evaluate their sustainability practices at https://porkcheckoff.org/pork-production-management/sustainability/. While requesting the report doesn’t generate a carbon credit, it can be a useful first step toward receiving one.
The Pork Checkoff’s sustainability efforts follow the pork industry’s We Care Ethical Principles, established in 2008 “to promote responsibility across every aspect of pork production.” We Care looks at sustainability through a holistic lens of caring for people, pigs and the planet.
Samuel said several South Dakota producers have already provided information to sustainable environmental consultants and have received their Your Farm Sustainability reports. With the data they provide, Samuel said experts can evaluate scientific research and production practices to keep improving the industry. But first, they need the data.
“You can’t talk about anything if you don’t measure it, and we’re trying to measure where we are,” Samuel said.
Most producers already track their own practices in the barn and in the field, whether via computer software or by pencil and paper, he noted. The Your Farm Sustainability Report gives each participant a way to verify and quantify what they are already doing, while offering potential goals for improvement, and the potential to generate revenue from carbon trading.
“We’re not asking them to do more, we’re just asking them for the information they already collect,” Samuel said. “We can use that information to discuss the pork industry as a whole and start thinking of benchmarks for individuals.”
For more information, contact Ryan Samuel, SDSU Extension Swine Specialist.