Foods to be carbon negative

Published 6:28 pm Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Smithfield Foods has pledged to become carbon-negative in company-owned operations in the United States by 2030.
Stewart Leeth, Smithfield Foods’ vice president of regulatory affairs and its chief sustainability officer, said work is ongoing to meet the company’s carbon-negative objective, including initiatives at facilities and farms in Virginia. The actions include pursuit of renewable natural gas ventures, regenerative agricultural practices, renewable electricity purchases and transportation and logistics and packaging projects.

The company says it intends to go beyond carbon neutrality to effectively remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits and will achieve the goal without purchasing carbon credit to offset emissions. The Sept. 3 announcement follows the company’s previously stated goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2025 across its supply chain.

“Among the most visible projects and a hallmark of our Smithfield Renewables platform, we are continuing to implement (renewable natural gas) projects across the majority of company-owned finishing spaces in Virginia, North Carolina, Utah, Missouri and other states,” Leeth said. “Beyond emissions reduction, these projects strengthen the economic viability of our nation’s family farmers by providing a new revenue stream. These goals would not be possible without partnerships, including our joint ventures with Dominion Energy, a fellow Virginia-based business.”

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In 2018, Smithfield Foods joined forces with Dominion, forming Align Renewable Natural Gas. The joint venture is focused on capturing methane from company farms and converting it into renewable natural gas. In 2019, Smithfield Foods said it doubled its initial $250 million investment in this initiative to $500 million through 2028.

“Our efforts with Dominion Energy represent a historic initiative to transform the future of sustainable energy and agriculture — including right here in our backyard of Virginia,” Leeth said. “When fully implemented, our partnership will ultimately produce enough RNG to power more than 70,000 homes and businesses and prevent more than 2.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere, which is the same as taking more than 500,000 cars off the road or planting more than 40 million new trees.”

The company said its focus on reducing emissions will extend to more than 40 processing facilities nationwide through measures intended to lower energy use for refrigeration, lighting and other projects. Additionally, it’s also generating renewable natural gas from wastewater treatment operations to power modified steam boilers and in the case of its largest processing facility in Tar Heel, N.C., to power local homes and businesses.

Reducing miles driven for operations, such as transporting livestock and products, is a critical initiative to cut carbon emissions. The company said its pursuing a logistics optimization initiative to reduce the number of regional distribution centers and enhancing transportation routes to be shorter and more efficient.

The company also has set a goal to reduce overall solid waste sent to landfills by 75% and certify three-quarters of its domestic facilities as zero waste-to-landfill by 2025. Smithfield Foods said it will do this by minimizing waste and recycling or reusing materials that were once considered garbage.

“As the world grapples with environmental challenges impacting our planet, consumers are looking to companies to take deliberate, bold action to address issues such as climate change,” said Smithfield Foods President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Sullivan. “The world is at an inflection point. To feed a growing world population, with finite resources available to grow and produce the food we need, we must limit our environmental impact.”