What Is an Environmental Foot Print? (Ecological Footprint)

green stylized pig logoThe Cambridge dictionary defines environmental footprint as:

the effect that a person, company, activity, etc. has on the environment, for example the amount of natural resources that they use and the amount of harmful gases that they produce

Also referred to as an ecological footprint, this is a measure that attempts to consider multiple impacts of an activity rather than focus on a single one. In relation to the swine industry, this foot print takes into account the results of carbon, water, land and air footprints of pig farming.

Related: Evaluating the environmental footprint of pork production

How do you bring all of these different pieces together? In 2011, the U.S. National Pork Board and many land grant researchers launched a project to develop a science-based decision tool called Pig Production Environmental Footprint Calculator (PPEFC). The PPEFC has the ability to calculate (estimate) impact to greenhouse gas emissions, costs, land use, and water consumption across the pork production chain, including feed formulation and crop production. The combined analysis of all of these factors allows identification of potential ecologically and economically feasible production practices for pork producers.

One of the pieces of this project is developing an environmental footprint, cost, and nutrient database of the US animal feed ingredients and integrating it with the calculator. The calculator is built upon cradle-to-farm gate life-cycle assessment (LCA) of pork production combined with the US National Resource Council (NRC) swine nutrient requirements models (NRC 2012), farm operation inputs, and animal feed database. Farm operation inputs include: barn characteristics, utilities, manure management, dead animal disposal, and farm operation costs. For a description of the inputs, visit this conference presentation at LCA Foods 2014.

Additional Information

Factsheets: What is a water footprint? | What is a land footprint? | What is a carbon footprint?

Pig Production Environmental Footprint Calculator (National Pork Board).

Animal agriculture and:


Author: Amy Carroll, University of Arkansas

Reviewers: Jill Heemstra, University of Nebraska; Karl Vandevender, University of Arkansas

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.