Missouri Ruralist logo

Hog Outlook: An on-farm report details pork producer sustainability metrics and ways to improve.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

April 11, 2022

3 Min Read
wind turbine on hog farm
MEASURE TO MANAGE: Saying your hog farm is environmentally friendly and proving it are two different things. An on-farm sustainability report will help you put metrics where your mouth is.Courtesy of National Pork Board

Pig farmers care. They care about the pigs in their barns. They care about the world around them, and they care about their communities.

A study completed a few years back found that over the past 50 years, U.S. pig farmers have reduced their impact on the environment by using 75.9% less land, 25.1% less water, 7% less energy, and they have 7.7% lower carbon emissions per pound of pork produced.

Still, agriculture in general receives a bad rap when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, when in reality agriculture accounts for 9% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and pork production accounts for less than 0.3%.

Even though livestock production has increased dramatically over the years, producers have been able to keep GHG emissions in check through improved feed efficiencies, better manure management and efficient use of the land used to grow crops to feed livestock.

These are definitely feathers in the cap for the industry as a whole, but just how much do you care? How does your hog farm stack up with the industry standards?

Walk the walk

U.S. pig farmers have been practicing the six industry-developed “We Care” principles of doing what’s right for food safety, animal well-being, people, public health, the environment and the community.

You may “talk the talk,” but do you truly “walk the walk” on your farm? How closely do you follow these We Care principles on your farm? As they say, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

The national Pork Checkoff encourages pig farmers across the country to request a customized on-farm sustainability report to help measure and document continuous improvement in building on the We Care principles.

The Pork Checkoff is working with a third-party independent company that will collect data from participating farmers. Through these data, individual pork producers will get a “report card” on the impact of their farm, both in the barns and in their fields.

Participation, though voluntary, is strongly encouraged, and individual producer information will be held confidential. Individual producers will find these data helpful, not only to know how they are doing, but they also may use the information when speaking with their lender or with community groups.

They may also see fit to use the report’s findings as basis for neighbors or county commissioners when trying to site a new farm.

At a national level, these data will be aggregated and allow such organizations as the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council to advocate of behalf of the entire pork industry to consumers and customers, both domestically and globally.

Step up to see how much you care by requesting an on-farm sustainability report.

Pig heart transplant update

In an earlier Hog Outlook column, I wrote of a Maryland man receiving a pig’s heart to replace his faulty one.

It was too early to tell if the pig heart would indeed keep David Bennett Sr. alive. Sadly, Bennett passed away in early March, two months after receiving the genetically modified pig’s heart.

According to a post on the website of the University of Maryland Medical Center where the operation was performed, “The transplanted heart performed very well for several weeks without any signs of rejection.”

Using the pig heart was a last-ditch effort to save Bennett’s life. The doctors knew that, and they informed Bennett that was the case. But, as Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, who performed the surgery, says, “As with any first-in-the-world transplant surgery, this one led to valuable insights that will hopefully inform transplant surgeons to improve outcomes and potentially provide life-saving benefits to future patients.”

A setback in research, even one such as this with the loss of a man’s life, does not mean all future such research should be discontinued. Griffith say the insights learned thanks to Bennett’s bravery may pay big dividends down the road for those needing new hearts in the future.

Schulz, a Farm Progress senior writer, grew up on the family hog farm in southern Minnesota, before a career in ag journalism, including National Hog Farmer.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like