A large percentage of the GNP Co.'s Just Bare chicken's carbon footprint operations lies where GNP Co. Sustainability Manager Paul Helgeson refers to as "upstream" and "downstream" of the company's operations. That's why Helgeson believes poultry processors who want to produce a sustainable product must have a good knowledge of all pieces of the supply chain and engage the people involved "from the cradle to the grave."

Helgeson shared his message at the Animal Agriculture Sustainability Summit, held January 27 as part of the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta.

Helgeson explained to Animal Agriculture Sustainability Summit attendees that about 50 percent of the Just Bare carbon footprint comes upstream from GNP operations. Thirty-five percent of that comes from the production of feed that the company uses, while another 15 percent comes from the company that serves as GNP's packaging supplier.

Another 28 percent of the carbon footprint is left downstream of the GNP processing facilities, Helgeson said. Twelve percent is in distribution and retail, 9 percent is in use and the remaining 7 percent involves disposal.


That leaves 22 percent of Just Bare's carbon footprint, which involves energy burned at the plant, at the feed mill, in its vehicles and in other machinery that the company owns. While poultry companies can continue to work on reducing its in-house carbon footprint, it can be more challenging to improve what happens both downstream and upstream of the plant.

"I have to respect the golden rule of sustainability, and that is whoever has the gold makes the rules," Helgeson said. "We're not going to tell the customers necessarily what to do, but we can try to work with them."

He cited an example of working with one major retailer, whose customers wanted a certain type of packaging that enabled them to see how many pieces of chicken were included.

"It shows the challenge of working downstream. You're in a different dynamic," he said.