Written by: Guest | February 16, 2023
By: Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO, North American Meat Institute
The Protein PACT for the People, Animals & Climate of Tomorrow unites partners including the Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER) across the animal agriculture supply chain in the largest-ever effort to strengthen animal protein’s contributions to the people, animals and climate of tomorrow. Following the Protein PACT’s launch in July 2021, the North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) and our partners have been hard at work to set measurable baselines, verify progress toward ambitious achievements and communicate transparently about how nutrient-dense animal-sourced foods contribute to sustainable food security solutions.
As part of this effort, the Meat Institute celebrated a major milestone just before the November 2022 United Nations Climate Summit (COP27) - releasing our first ever data-based continuous improvement report. While many companies across meat packing and processing make huge contributions in each of the Protein PACT’s five focus areas, our data collection and reporting were the sector’s first attempt to measure these contributions. With global leaders looking to food for climate solutions, this culture shift to publicly report data on our achievements comes at a critical time.
With 100% of the Meat Institute’s large U.S. members (i.e., those with more than 2,000 employees) submitting data, the report covers an estimated 90% of meat sold in the United States (by volume) and establishes baselines against which we will verify progress toward ambitious targets for environmental sustainability, animal care, food safety, worker safety and food security.
Importantly, given the global focus on combating climate change, the report reveals that 81% of Meat Institute’s member facilities reporting data are covered by companywide commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 81% say they are committed to measuring their scope 3 emissions, including those from the animal feed.
The Meat Institute aims for 100% of its members to have delivered emissions reduction targets approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative by 2030. To further support environmental goals, 82% of reporting establishments are covered by company commitments to minimize packaging waste and 71% are covered by company commitments to reduce food waste.
Another key target is our goal to measure and help fill the “protein gap” - the difference between the protein needed to help families experiencing hunger and what is available through food banks and charities. Meat Institute members have announced more than $9 million in donations this year alone focused on building or expanding food banks’ capacity to safely receive, store, package and distribute fresh meat that hungry families need. In total, 78% of reporting Meat Institute members donate money or products to food banks and charities. The Meat Institute has formally designated food security as a non-competitive issue and established a food security committee, facilitating industrywide information sharing and best practice implementation.
Of course, sustainable food systems and healthy diets start with healthy, well cared-for animals. We are proud to report that 96% of reporting facilities that conduct meat processing require suppliers to maintain a written animal welfare program based on the Meat Institute’s Animal Handling Guidelines. And we cannot feed a growing population or end hunger unless food is safe, without exceptions. Meat Institute members are true leaders in food safety, which is an ingrained part of our culture - 98% of reporting facilities have a multidisciplinary team that periodically reviews food safety programs and takes improvement actions.
Collecting and reporting this data is just a start. The Meat Institute envisions the Protein PACT and the industry’s continuous improvement efforts and alignment of data throughout the supply chain as a long-term investment in earning trust - from consumers, customers, opinion leaders, and decision makers. Our members and supply chain partners in meat, dairy, eggs, feed and animal health have achieved so much and there is even more yet to be accomplished.
As we do the hard work of continuously improving, we are also committed to communicate transparently in new ways to showcase our progress. At COP27, we partnered with the Interamerican Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as they hosted the summit’s first pavilion focused on “Sustainable Agriculture of the Americas.”
IICA and its pavilion partners, including the Protein PACT, convened a total of nine events focused on animal agriculture’s key role in sustainability solutions. The Protein PACT invited a diverse group of Protein PACT partners and independent expert speakers who addressed topics including: the unique role of nutrient-dense, animal-sourced foods in sustainable food security, sustainable livestock efforts across regions and production systems and the sustainability impacts of animal agriculture coproducts and byproducts.
During the Protein PACT panels and at a high-level dinner co-hosted by IICA and the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Meat Institute Chief Strategy Officer Eric Mittenthal, National Pork Board Interim Vice President of Sustainability Ashley McDonald and President of the Leather and Hide Council of America Steve Sothmann highlighted the Protein PACT partners’ vision and commitments, including in a new video debuted during COP27.
As we advance our data collection and communications efforts, we are proud to partner with the animal feed industry and IFEEDER to advance the feed sustainability road map and its utilization throughout the supply chain to make the industry more data driven and transparent with the goal of earning greater trust in animal protein.