U.S. poultry industry in sustainability drive

New sustainability initiatives that emerged in the U.S. will not only help to drive sustainability in the poultry industry but should help in building consumer trust.

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Various U.S. sustainability initiatives are looking to strengthen animal protein’s contribution to the people, animals and climate of tomorrow. Halfpoint | Shutterstock.com

New sustainability initiatives in the U.S. could offer valuable examples to poultry producers around the world, as consumer concerns over poultry and other meats’ sustainability increase.

A Sustainability Framework, due to launch later this year, has been developed by the independent, multi-stakeholder organization the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Eggs (US-RSPE). It encompasses the entire U.S. supply chains for chicken, turkey and eggs from producer to final customer.

The US-RSPE Sustainability Framework includes sustainability measurements encompassing the planet, its people and poultry, its developers note. The tool allows accurate measurement and tracking of continuous improvement, offering a clearer picture of how poultry products are produced.

The assessment will not only better equip the whole value chain in understanding how sustainable it is, but it will also make communication with stakeholders far easier.

As part of the framework’s development, two public comment periods were held, and eight full supply chain pilot assessments conducted across the chicken, turkey and egg industries. Its developers say that the framework goes far beyond anything that has been tackled before.

Importantly, the assessment can be used by all companies, whether they have long worked with being sustainable or are only now considering their sustainability credentials, offering entry-level, achievement and advanced metrics.

This flexibility should allow for internal progress to occur at the same time as supply chain level efforts, revealing strengths and weaknesses and what each participant should be working on next.

John Starkey, U.S. Poultry and Egg Association President commented: “The set-up of the framework allows all our growers to get a more accurate picture of their own sustainability and challenges them to improve significantly without overwhelming them with unattainable goals.”

Participants in the poultry production chains will input data from 2021 into the framework, where it will be anonymized and used to create a report on full supply chain sustainability and form a baseline.

This data, and subsequent years’ additions, can then be used to guide innovation, drive improvements and support communication about the measured and verified sustainability of U.S. poultry and eggs.  

Broader meat initiative

Trade association the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) has been a member of the US-RSPE for the last two years and, in tandem, has developed a complementary framework, the Protein PACT, to align with the US-RSPE’s work, but with a focus on metrics for its members.

The Protein PACT also aligns with similar work in the pork and beef sectors and brings these efforts together to facilitate communications, highlighting progress and commitments and reassuring consumers that may have concerns about animal protein’s sustainability.

Building consumer trust

NAMI argues that trust in the animal protein sector is imperative. It notes that, on a scale of 1-5, if the industry were to improve consumer trust to a 4 rating or more, from a current level of 3.4-3.7 this could result in an additional US$17 billion in sales. Losing ground, however, could be catastrophic for the industry. Moving to a 3 or below on the trust scale would cut sales by US$143 million per annum.

The Protein PACT will help to build this trust, and, through it, NAMI and its partners have united in what it calls “the largest-ever effort to strengthen animal protein’s contribution to the people, animals and climate of tomorrow."

Its partners are establishing transparent baselines and benchmarks for their respective efforts and setting ambitious targets for continuous improvement. At the same time, comprehensive communications are being launched about animal protein’s place in sustainable, healthy diets.  

Protein PACT partners and their members are being connected with technical expertise, education programs, supplier resources and other support.

The pact’s main objectives are: to support a diverse workforce and ensure safe workplaces; to produce safe products without exception; to provide a wide variety of high quality protein for balanced diets; to optimize contributions to healthy land, air and water; and, to provide the most humane care and to raise healthy animals.

Target dates

By 2025, all NAMI members that handle animals will have to have passed third-party animal transport and handling audits and all members will require all suppliers to implement mandatory employee training and follow species specific standards for animal care.

By 2030, all of the association’s members will have an approved Science Based Target to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Climate Goals.

Additionally, members have committed to reduce workplace injuries by 50% (2019 baseline), which is in addition to the 75% reduction achieved between 1999 and 2019.

All NAMI members will be reporting all metrics by 2030. One hundred metrics have been developed across the Protein Pact’s focus areas to measure and improve the sustainability of meat packing and processing.

To encourage the full participation of companies of all sizes, NAMI has set a broad range of measurable indicators within each focus area that allow companies at every stage of their sustainability efforts to demonstrate continuous improvement.

Making the business case for sustainability


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