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In 2008, The National Pork Board made a sizable investment in research to study the impact of the pork industry's carbon, air, water, and land footprints. Graduated results of the research are being released this fall and in early 2013. The land component should be completed by year-end 2014.
Karen Richter, vice president of the National Pork Board, relayed some early findings in November at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Trade Talk in Kansas City, MO. She says the study, conducted by the University of Arkansas' Applied Sustainability Center, showed the modern swine industry reduced its carbon footprint by 35%, reduced water usage by 41%, and used 78% less land to produce today's pork. Review a summary of life-cycle assessment of emissions and energy use.
"The study helps establishes a baseline," Richter says. "Producers of any type, any size, know that we have to move forward and learn how to incorporate changes and grasp what lies ahead of us for feeding the growing world population," Richter continues. "By 2050, when we're told we need to double protein production as the world population nears 9 billion, this baseline tells us where we've been and helps us determine where we need to head."
Richter notes that understanding pork production heritage allows for adaption of practices. "Farmers have always been the original recyclers. We just have to do what we do better. We know we're not going to have any more acres to work with, that we have limited resources, that we have to protect what we have. We continue to encompass the tools available, such as using animal nutrients and turning them into nutrients for crops."
Another intent of the study is to provide a foundation for better education about swine production. "There are a lot of myths out there," Richter says. "But this study gives us information for producers to not only utilize on their farms, but also in conversation with neighbors, friends, and family."
Review details of the National Pork Board's "Four Pillars of Sustainability."