Smithfield Making Significant Inroads in its Sustainability Journey
Smithfield Foods, Inc., one of the country’s leading pork producers, offers a great example of how a company can become an industry leader in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability by learning from its mistakes, creating a new company culture and defining core values that emphasize leadership, performance and accountability.
In the past, some have been critical of Smithfield’s animal feeding operations and expressed concern about animal welfare issues.
However, Smithfield addressed these issues, along with environmental practices involving pig manure and water management, and in recent years has earned recognition from government regulators and environmental groups as a leader in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability practices throughout the meat processing industry.1 The company was the first within its industry to achieve ISO 14001 environmental certification for its American processing plants. “Since 2007, Smithfield has reduced its water consumption by 15 percent, electricity use by 17 percent and solid waste generation by over 20 percent. The results achieved a net annual savings of over half a billion gallons of water, 124,000 decatherms in natural gas use, and a 2.2 million kilowatt hours reduction in the consumption of electricity.”2
In addition, Murphy-Brown, Smithfield’s livestock production subsidiary, has enhanced the quality of animal care at its farms throughout the country. Murphy-Brown is committed to phasing out gestation stalls for pregnant sows and replacing them with group housing, known as “free access.” This change was welcomed by animal welfare proponents. Smithfield based its decision to implement this practice on a three-year research study that showed group housing works as well as gestation stalls in providing sows with proper care during their pregnancies .3
Smithfield also was first in its industry to develop a comprehensive animal welfare policy for its subsidiaries involved with the production or processing of live animals. The policy provides:
- Comprehensive written animal care programs to ensure animal well-being;
- Shelter that is designed, maintained and operated to provide a physical environment that meets the animals’ needs;
- Access to adequate water and high-quality feed to meet animal nutrition requirements (production facilities) and in accordance with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978 (processing facilities);
- Humane treatment of animals that ensures their well-being and complies with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements;
- Identification and appropriate treatment of animals in need of care;
- Humane treatment of animals which meets or exceeds the requirements of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978, and all applicable American Meat Institute Animal Handling Guidelines (processing facilities);
- Timely use of humane methods to euthanize sick or injured animals not responding to care and treatment. 4
Smithfield’s CSR efforts also include employee training and outreach activities in the communities where its employees live and work. Employees must complete a rigorous 90-day training period where they learn animal welfare and handling techniques.5 Among the company’s community efforts, its Learners to Leaders® initiative supports local educational programs that provide learning opportunities for disadvantaged individuals and Smithfield’s Helping Hungry Homes® program provides support for food programs that help feed the hungry.6
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