Smithfield Foods has been on the forefront of sustainability solutions for more than two decades and has become increasingly focused on capturing methane, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), from the hog manure on its farms. The company has been rapidly adding anaerobic digesters on its company-owned operations to capture natural emissions from manure and convert them into pipeline-quality, low-carbon renewable natural gas (RNG). These projects will better protect the environment and benefit surrounding communities by reducing methane emissions, providing a diverse income stream for family farmers, and producing clean, low-carbon energy to power homes and businesses.
As the world’s population continues to grow, farmers and food companies are facing a steep challenge: to produce more food with fewer resources while minimizing their impact on the planet. With the global population expected to significantly expand by 2050, it will take a concerted effort to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impacts while still continuing to produce enough food to meet the increasing global need.
Smithfield Foods has been working for more than two decades to address this significant challenge.
As one of the world’s leading vertically integrated protein companies, Smithfield manages, supports, or works directly with every part of its supply chain, from the farmers who raise hogs and grow the grain that feeds its animals to the drivers who deliver products to store shelves. The company’s vertically integrated business model has resulted in extensive research and investments that address some of the greatest sustainability challenges and opportunities facing the protein industry. The results of this research are shared with the company’s 3,000 contract farms and 600 company-owned farms globally, allowing them to efficiently manage farm operations and minimize environmental impact.
Smithfield has committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its entire U.S. value chain by 30% and achieving carbon-negative status in all company-owned U.S. operations by 2030. Smithfield was the first in its industry to establish a carbon reduction goal covering scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.
In developing sustainability programs to achieve these goals, Smithfield has become increasingly focused on capturing methane, a potent GHG, from the hog manure on its 400 company-owned farms and 2,100 contract farms in the U.S. Manure is the primary contributor to Smithfield’s GHG emissions and represents its greatest opportunity for GHG reduction. Given Smithfield’s comprehensive scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions goals, methane capture is a major component of the company’s carbon reduction strategy.
While manure on hog farms is highly regulated at the federal and state level, Smithfield Renewables takes manure management a step further. The company is leading the way with voluntary, innovative environmental management practices that reduce emissions by capturing fugitive emissions from on-farm anaerobic lagoons and converting them into clean, low-carbon renewable energy. This allows Smithfield to provide more nutrient-dense, nutritionally important protein to feed a growing population while continuing to reduce its carbon footprint.
Since 2018, Smithfield’s company-owned operations have been rapidly adding anaerobic digesters to complement traditional manure management systems on its farms. Anaerobic digesters capture natural emissions from manure and convert them into pipeline-quality, renewable natural gas (RNG).
RNG derived from biogas has the lowest carbon intensity score of all alternative fuels; in fact, it is actually carbon-negative, as it captures significantly more GHG emissions from biomass than are released from its end use in power plants, homes, and businesses. Not only is Smithfield reducing GHG emissions from the farm, the company is replacing conventional fossil fuel with lower-carbon RNG.
As of 2022, Smithfield operates more than 100 digesters – covering over one million hog spaces – and produces more than 800,000 dekatherms of RNG annually. This represents an annual emissions reduction of 367,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) and is the energy equivalent of heating 10,200 homes for one year, taking 79,000 cars off the road, or planting 6.2 million trees.
In the U.S., Smithfield primarily feeds RNG to existing pipelines and grids as a clean, renewable source of energy, while its operations in Mexico heat barns with RNG to reduce energy costs and emissions. Since 2018, Smithfield’s Mexico operations have reduced energy consumption from the grid from 161 kWh to 143 kWh for an approximate cost savings of $500,000.
Smithfield’s RNG projects represent a substantial financial commitment to continuing to make improvements that will better protect the environment and benefit surrounding communities by reducing methane emissions, providing a diverse income stream for family farmers, and producing clean, low-carbon energy to power homes and businesses. The company is paving the way to a sustainable future by efficiently producing safer, more affordable food for global populations while limiting its carbon footprint, reducing GHG emissions, and producing clean, low-carbon renewable energy.