Smithfield Foods, Inc., Smithfield, Va., engaged 80% of its grain supply chain, which is used to feed the company’s hogs, in farming practices that are both sustainable and reduce the cost of production for grain farmers. This exceeded the company’s original goal of 75%. In 2018, Smithfield purchased grain from producers who use efficient fertilizer and soil health methods across approximately 560,000 acres of land.

Grain production is the first step in the vertically integrated company’s supply chain, making this accomplishment one of the key ways Smithfield is working toward its goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25% by 2025 throughout its entire supply chain, what is said to be the first commitment of its kind from a protein company.

“This accomplishment is a significant milestone in our company’s holistic approach to reducing carbon emissions across our entire supply chain,” says Kenneth Sullivan, president and CEO. “It is important to note that it would not have been possible without the unified efforts of grain farmers, our company, Environmental Defense Fund and other collaborative partners. This is an important achievement for everyone involved and for our environment.”

While fertilizer is an essential tool for agriculture, it can be a driver of crop-related GHG emissions. To reduce the environmental impact of its grain supply, Smithfield teamed up with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Washington, D.C., to help farmers find ways to optimize fertilizer use and improve soil health through the Smithfield Agronomics program, also known as SmithfieldGro. The program has helped hundreds of grain suppliers implement efficient fertilizer optimization and soil health initiatives by providing:

  • On-staff agronomists who demonstrate strategies and provide free agronomic advice to enable farmers to incorporate more efficient fertilizer practices.
  • Access to reduced-price tools and programs that assist farmers in improving fertilizer usage, crop production, water quality and soil health.
  • Economic incentives to diversify crop production and create a market for winter wheat cover crops.

In conjunction with this announcement, EDF released a case study describing Smithfield’s supply chain sustainability programs and the value they generate for the environment, farmers and Smithfield itself.

“Smithfield exceeded its grain sustainability goal in only five years. This milestone adds to the growing evidence that improved farming practices can simultaneously benefit farm finances, water quality and wildlife habitat,” says David Festa, EDF senior vice president of ecosystems. “Smithfield is an industry leader in tackling supply chain GHG emissions and making the agricultural system more climate resilient. We encourage other food companies and retailers to pursue similarly ambitious, measurable targets.”