Even though pig farms are not a large source of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the pork industry (along with many agriculture industries) are looking at GHG emissions to identify areas for improvement.
When carbon footprint is reported, you may see numbers that reflect the total GHG emissions for the entire industry or for individual farms. Sometimes you will see it reported in terms of GHGs emitted per pound of pork produced. This is a very appropriate way to examine an industry’s improvements over time as it standardizes the number against changes in number of animals, number of farms, etc.
There are several areas being researched as ways to reduce GHG emissions:
- Reducing nitrogen in animal diets
- Manure management, including solid-liquid separation
- Renewable energy systems such anaerobic digestion and thermal technologies including gasification
- Using algae to remove nutrients or as a feedstock for gasification
- Animal health status
- Using growth enhancers to increase efficiency
Recommended: [Fact sheet] What is a carbon footprint?
A National Pork Board report on the total production cycle showed that selection and planning of manure storage systems represents the biggest opportunity for reducing the carbon footprint of a farm. Manure emits methane and some nitrous oxide as it decomposes. Both of these GHGs, especially nitrous oxide, are more potent than carbon dioxide in their ability to trap heat.
The video below, by Rick Ulrich, University of Arkansas provides a summary of different areas that are being studied to develop a tool for pig farms on reducing environmental footprint.
Author: Jill Heemstra, University of Nebraska firstname.lastname@example.org
This information is part of the program “Integrated Resource Management Tool to Mitigate the Carbon Footprint of Swine Produced In the U.S.,” and is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68002-30208 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Project website.