Smithfield Foods commits to halving food waste by 2030

Dive Brief:

  • Smithfield Foods has pledged to cut food loss and waste in its U.S. company-owned operations in half by 2030. The pork producer said it plans to achieve this goal through loss prevention, recovering wasted food to donate, and recycling waste for applications such as animal feed, compost and energy generation.
  • The company has also joined the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Loss and Waste Champions — a list of businesses including CPGs like Campbell Soup, Conagra Foods and Unilever that have pledged to halve their waste by 2030, in alignment with the federal goal. And it has joined the global 10x20x30 initiative, which brings together retailers and their suppliers committed to the same goal.  
  • Smithfield’s new target adds to its earlier commitments to cut waste sent to landfills. In setting concrete goals, it raises the stakes for other meat processors who seek to raise the sustainability profile of their own companies and the industry as a whole in the eyes of consumers.

Dive Insight:

Smithfield’s commitment to halve food loss and waste by 2030 gives it the opportunity to build on waste reduction goals it first set in 2019. The Virginia-based pork producer launched an initiative to reduce overall waste sent to landfills 75% by 2025, which came in tandem with a goal to cut its emissions by 25%. The company also aims to recycle at least 50% of accumulated waste and limit waste incineration at its facilities that achieve zero-waste certification.

In a form submitted to the USDA and EPA, the pork giant said one way it plans to hit its 2030 goal is through recycling materials for animal feed, like wheat that is left over from flour milling or spent grains from whiskey and beer production. The company said it now also includes byproducts from bread, snack food and baked goods facilities.

In 2020, Smithfield also invested in specialized equipment for its feed mills that efficiently processes packaged bakery products that are otherwise difficult to recycle and unsuitable for human consumption into animal feed, enabling it to divert 23,000 tons of waste from landfills.

For meat producers like Smithfield, trying a range of tactics to cut down on food waste will be critical. The livestock industry produces 1.4 billion pounds of waste per year, mainly due to the parts of the animal that cannot be used such as bones, tendons and skin, The Atlantic reported. About 5% of food loss and waste by weight occurs during the processing and packaging stage of meat production, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The EPA has highlighted the outsized impact that food waste from meat production has on the environment. In a November report examining the issue, the agency cited research showing that while pork production does not emit as much greenhouse gases as beef, veal and lamb, it did produce more than poultry.

Smithfield is not the only major pork producer to set food waste reduction goals. In 2020, meat giant Hormel, which is also a member of the 10x20x30 initiative, announced it had reduced the amount of solid waste sent to landfills from its supply chain by 38 tons.

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