New ISU pork sustainability calculator helps producers reduce carbon footprint

Sherry Hoyer
Iowa State University Extension
Ag News

Sustainability is more than a buzzword for pork producers. It offers a focus to set new goals and standards in their operations and, consequently, the swine industry as a whole. Improving sustainability of pork production involves fully understanding how the environment and production practices interact, and the use of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) helps provide that information.

A new fact sheet from the Iowa Pork Industry Center and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, "Sustainability in the Swine Industry: Understanding the Life Cycle Assessment," looks at three LCAs that have been created for the US swine industry. Lead author and graduate research assistant Erika Johnson said the LCAs focus on carbon emissions, land occupation and water usage.

“An LCA is a holistic approach to analyzing the cumulative environmental impacts of different phases of swine production, and doing so in a manner that’s easily understood by producers and consumers,” she said. “The overall footprint estimated for a 4-ounce. serving of pork is 2.48 pounds of carbon dioxide, 9.75 square feet of land per year, 8.2 gallons of water.”

Lance Baumgard, animal science professor, and Jason Ross, animal science professor and Iowa Pork Industry Center director, are the other authors of this fact sheet available from the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Store as a free download.

Johnson also developed a spreadsheet tool for producers to evaluate and estimate impacts of different levels of efficiency on environmental emissions.

“The Wean-to-Finish Pork Sustainability Calculator allows producers to understand how specific improvements in finishing can influence the environmental footprint of that barn,” she said. “They can change production parameters such as mortality and feed efficiency and see the effect of those changes.”

You can download the calculator at no charge from the IPIC website.

This Excel-based calculator provides changes in percentages and weight of carbon dioxide based on baseline and target values entered by the user. It offers insight into the level of greenhouse gas production at the individual barn level to enable continuous improvement and can be used at any time to gauge potential change implications.