Sustainability is a regular topic of conversation in both consumer and industry food circles, but it can be difficult to pinpoint precisely what the term means.
The Hartman Group, a research firm that studies consumer behaviors pertaining to food and beverage consumption, recently pointed out that “doing the right thing” for the planet isn’t necessarily “a guarantee that consumers will buy your company’s products.” But not doing anything to minimize waste and preserve natural resources won’t help the cause either.
The latest sustainability research from the National Restaurant Association indicates that owners and operators could be doing more to improve energy efficiency, waste management and water usage in their facilities. But there are bright spots within the larger foodservice industry.
For example, recent research from the University of Arkansas shows that pork producers are using significantly less land (75.9 percent), water (25.1 percent) and energy (7 percent) to produce a pound of pork than they did six decades ago. Their sustainability efforts also have reduced the industry’s overall carbon footprint by nearly 8 percent since 1960.
Funded by the National Pork Board’s Pork Checkoff program, the assessment of the pork production lifecycle between 1960 and 2015 “confirms what we as producers have been doing to make good on our ongoing commitment of doing what’s best for people, pigs and the planet,” National Pork Board president Steve Rommereim said upon the study’s release earlier this year. “It’s a great barometer of our environmental stewardship over the years and gives us a solid benchmark for future improvements.”
What specific steps have pork producers like Clemens Food Group taken to bolster the sustainability of their operations? These answers provide a helpful roadmap for others hoping to do the same for their businesses.
How is your business planning for the future, in terms of sustainability, from a land, water and energy use perspective?
“Clemens Food Group is founded on three core values: ethics, integrity and stewardship,” says Keith Stahler, director of communications. “The third value, stewardship, is about building a foundation for future generations.
“Our environmental protection efforts—including protecting land, air and water quality—not only ensure we reduce any negative environmental impacts that may stem from our farms or processing facilities, but also enhance the communities in which we live and work,” Shahler continues. “We appreciate the connection between the environment and our food system. Today, we use less land and water, with a smaller carbon footprint than we ever have before.”
What other facets of sustainability are you tackling?
“Our commitment to local farming not only helps sustain local U.S. agriculture, but ensures control over supply and reduces transit times, says Clemens Food Group Senior Vice President Eric Patton. “This improves animal welfare and the environmental impact of transportation. Because many of our farms are local, and we have a simplified, vertically coordinated supply chain, the overall carbon footprint and food mileage of our product is greatly reduced.”
Launched in 2014, Clemens’ No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) program, Farm Promise®, is a signature example of this progress.
Unlike other producers in the industry who may not have had systems that were ready to convert to NAE, Clemens was already raising healthy animals that didn’t need antibiotics. “We wanted to raise our animals the same way we always had—to be healthy and NAE,” explains Bob Ruth, president of farms at Clemens Food Group.
“All Farm Promise® No Antibiotics Ever pigs are born in Pennsylvania and ethically raised by local American family farmers,” Ruth continues. “The density of farms and animals in this area is less than in the Midwest, for example, plus the topography of the land—rolling hills and valleys with forests—creates a natural buffer that prevents the spread of disease. These two factors (density and topography) greatly reduce the need for antibiotics overall, allowing us to have more sustainably healthy pigs that don’t require treatment.”
How is sustainability good for business?
“Many of the costs associated with implementing sustainability programs are offset by financial savings, thus making such programs attractive from a business perspective,” Patton explains.
“For example, it is easy to see the value to our environment by reducing our water usage,” he continues. “But a secondary benefit is that we can control costs by reducing the amount of water that we have to purchase from local municipalities. In addition, we reduce the costs of treatment of effluent discharged back to local wastewater treatment facilities. The upfront costs to install water reuse systems are significant, but are offset by annual savings from reducing the purchase and treatment of water.”
The (Sustainable) Future of Farming
Trend lines show that America’s pig farmers are producing more pork using significantly fewer resources, and there’s no reason to doubt that will continue in the years ahead. Here are just a few examples of Clemens Food Group sustainable practices in action, by the numbers:
- 100 million+ gallons of water recycled annually
- 405 tons of paper, corrugated materials, batteries and metals recycled annually
- 36,000 gallons of diesel fuel saved annually by using auxiliary power units and cab heaters on company tractors
- 300% reduction in emissions
Clemens Food Group has pledged to not only comply with but exceed industry standards in sustainability, product quality and more. Learn more about our commitments at https://clemensfoodgroup.com/our-commitment.
The Farm Promise® Difference
Our farm families make taking care of the environment a top priority. We believe we have a moral and ethical obligation to provide a safe environment for the animals in our care and require all Clemens Food Group farms—not just those in Farm Promise®—to participate in annual third-party animal welfare audits for ethical raising and handling practices. We want to ensure we’re able to continue to sustainably grow our supply as consumer demand for pork grows.