Smithfield Foods has announced that it has committed to becoming carbon negative in all company-owned operations in the U.S. by 2030. It aims to go beyond carbon neutrality and remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits and will achieve this goal without purchasing carbon credits to offset emissions, a company release says.
"As the world grapples with environmental challenges impacting our planet, consumers are looking to companies to take deliberate, bold action to address issues such as climate change," said Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and chief executive officer, Smithfield Foods, in the release. "The world is at an inflection point. To feed a growing world population, with finite resources available to grow and produce the food we need, we must limit our environmental impact. At Smithfield, we are utilizing our expansive reach to lead efforts to eliminate our carbon footprint in our company-owned operations and remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere."
The new carbon goal builds on the company’s other goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 25% by 2025 across its entire supply chain, which was announced in 2016. In 2017, it launched Smithfield Renewables, a platform to unite its carbon reduction and renewable energy efforts, the release says.
To become carbon negative, the company will use resources and expertise from a “wide range of partners” to accelerate projects within its Smithfield Renewables program, while continuing to make progress toward its “25 by 25” goal across its scope 1-3 emissions.
The release says the company plans to make changes on its company-owned farms, food production facilities, through transportation and logistics and conservation activities. More about each of these initiatives is below.
On Smithfield's Farms
Some of the most significant opportunities for carbon improvements are located on Smithfield's company-owned farms, the release says. There, the company is focusing efforts on growing crops with efficient fertilizer and soil health practices and implementing renewable energy projects that reduce emissions through renewable natural gas (RNG), and wind and solar power generation.
The hallmark of its carbon reduction efforts, Smithfield's innovative biogas program captures methane from hog manure on farms and transforms it into RNG. Smithfield and its partners are implementing RNG projects across the majority of company-owned finishing spaces in North Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Missouri, as well as other states, the release says.
"Renewable energy is a cornerstone of our strategy to become carbon negative, and we have spent decades investing in and perfecting our approach," said Kraig Westerbeek, senior director of Smithfield Renewables and hog production environmental affairs, Smithfield Foods, in the release. "Capturing methane and transforming it into RNG removes at least 25 times more GHGs from the atmosphere than are released from its end use in power plants, homes, vehicles and businesses, creating a cleaner environment and even more sustainable farms."
At Smithfield's Food Production Facilities
At its processing facilities the company will reduce its consumption by implementing ongoing operational efficiency projects that result in lower energy use, including refrigeration, lighting and other equipment projects. It also is increasing the use of renewable energy across its footprint, the release says. The company is a partner in a wind power project that is projected to account for more than 15 percent of its total energy usage across the United States. The company is also generating renewable natural gas from its wastewater treatment operations to power their modified steam boilers, or in the case of its largest processing facility in Tar Heel, NC, to power local homes and businesses.
In 2019, Smithfield set a goal to reduce overall solid waste sent to landfills by 75% by 2025 and certify three-quarters of its domestic facilities as zero-waste-to-landfill by 2025. The release says the company will continue to minimize waste and recycle or reuse materials that were once considered garbage, ultimately reducing waste sent to landfills in communities throughout the country.
Transportation and Logistics
The company will work to optimize the miles driven throughout its operations, from transporting livestock from farms and moving products to customers across the country. Its’ logistics optimization initiative is reducing the number of regional distribution centers and enhancing transportation routes to be shorter and more efficient. Current efforts reduce distance traveled each year by approximately 11.2 million miles and reduce diesel consumption by 1.6 million gallons, equating to an annual GHG emission reduction of nearly 13,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), or taking more than 2,800 passenger cars off the road annually.
Smithfield will foster and enhance programs to sequester more carbon in agricultural lands and natural ecosystems. One example is Smithfield's partnership in the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange (The Exchange), a program that aims to restore 1.5 million acres of high-quality breeding and nectaring habitat along the butterflies' migration route. This includes reintroducing native species desired by monarchs on lands surrounding Smithfield hog farms in Missouri.