A new guide by not-for-profit NGO Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) aims to help U.S. poultry companies improve their sustainability. The industry has made significant progress, reducing its climate change impacts by 36% per 1000 kg of poultry meat produced between 1965 and 2010. The guide suggests that focusing on four areas could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve water quality, with feed production offering the greatest opportunity.
Many of the practices outlined in the guide are highlighted through the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association’s awards for family farmers engaged in poultry and egg production. The guide is a tool that supports the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Eggs whose mission is to support and communicate continuous improvement in sustainability.
The Poultry Sustainability Guide focuses on how companies can improve the sustainability of their own operations, and engage producers and supply chain partners in their sustainability journey.
Key recommendations outlined in the report include:
- At the plant, improving energy use, refrigeration, waste management and water use are where to concentrate efforts – and where financial savings exist. While chicken is one of the least water-demanding proteins to produce, there are still opportunities to increase water efficiency at the plant. Companies should consider using hydrometers to understand and track the water use for various pieces of equipment to determine if flow is consistent and efficient.
- On the farm, focusing on four major areas can lead to significant greenhouse gas reductions and water quality improvements: effective and efficient feed production, waste and litter management, on-farm equipment and water use can reduce environmental impacts and save money. Assessing feed grain impacts is crucial because growing and processing feed ingredients for poultry contributes up to 82% of greenhouse gas emissions within the U.S. poultry supply chain.
- Poultry companies should encourage independent poultry growers and grain farmers to adopt industry best practice, especially in the areas of tillage practices, nutrient management, updating and maintaining farm equipment, and adopting renewable energy practices. Engaging farmers directly or through support of regional grain co-ops is an ideal place to start.
The Poultry Sustainability Guide is a collaboration between EDF and the food and agriculture consulting firm, K-Coe Isom. It is based on research and industry interviews with a range of experts including academics, farmers and leaders in the U.S. poultry industry including U.S. Poultry & Egg Association and The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Eggs.
Read the report in full.