The House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture on Thursday held a hearing titled “Sustainability in the Livestock Sector: Environmental Gain and Economic Vitality” in which the tremendous strides the chicken industry has made on sustainability efforts was featured, most notably by Alabama Representative Barry Moore.

Witnesses in the hearing included Ernie Meier, a veteran of the chicken industry and current director of quality systems for McDonalds, who also serves on the board of directors for the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Eggs (US-RSPE). US-RSPE is a multi-stakeholder sustainability initiative for the U.S. poultry and egg value chain and affiliated with USPOULTRY.

Other witnesses included representatives from the dairy and cattle industries as well as a representative for an activist group.

“We’ve heard a lot about grazing and cattle [in this hearing so far], but Mr. Meier, I want to talk a little about the poultry industry,” Rep. Barry Moore (R, AL-2) asked Meier in the hearing. “That’s a big [industry] in our part of the world and huge in agriculture in Alabama. You focused a lot of your testimony on working on measurement. In the National Chicken Council’s 2020 Broiler Sustainability Report released last year, I’m reading that in just 10 years, the industry has decreased land use by 13 percent, carbon emissions by 18 percent, water consumption by 13 percent, and fossil fuel use by 22 percent. Can you expand on this? And what do you attribute these gains to?”

“Thank you Representative Moore. The poultry industry has made incredible strides over the past decade and has been a shining light in the agriculture industry in that space.” Meier went on to explain the work that the US-RSPE does in measuring sustainability performance across over a dozen priority areas and the forthcoming Framework, which is set to launch in late 2022. The Framework is a tool that companies in the poultry and egg industries can use to measure and evaluate sustainability progress over time.

“I’m sure looking down the road, we hope to continue these trends,” Rep. Moore continued. “What efforts do you see, is there anything you’d like to expand on? … To maintain these family farms, the poultry operation is actually the cash flow. They’re the thing that allows farmers to maintain their family farms and stay in business. So I’m just curious, what efforts do you think we need to expand on going forward in the near future?”

Meier noted the importance of accessibility to USDA’s sustainability programs to family farmers as a critical component of continuing the sustainability trends seen in the U.S. poultry and egg industries over the last decade.

A clip of the exchange can be found here.

According to NCC’s 2020 Broiler Sustainability Report, the U.S. chicken industry has decreased land use by 13 percent, carbon footprint by 18 percent, water consumption by 13 percent, fossil resource use by 22 percent, and particulate forming emissions by 22 percent per kg live weight of broiler (and cull breeder hen) produced during 2010 and 2020.

These improvements were made on the heels of substantial improvements made between 1965 and 2010. According to the prior life cycle assessment, producing the same amount of chicken in 2010 as in 1965 was already having 50 percent less impact on the environment.

By 2010, industry data showed that 75 percent fewer resources were required in poultry production, a 36 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 72 percent decrease in farmland used, and a 58 percent decrease in water usage in poultry production.

NCC’s 2020 Broiler Sustainability Report can be found here.

 

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