Protein types

Pork

Feed production and manure storage/processing contribute 60% and 27% of the emissions respectively from global pig supply chains. Soy for pig feed is one of the leading causes of deforestation. Manure from intensive pork operations pollute local waterways and can have health implications for workers and communities that live close to these facilities. Pork production is one of the largest global consumers of antibiotics.

Key stats

27
%
of companies that produce or sell pork have no discussion on manure management

The Index includes 26 companies that produce and sell pork products, including seven that are pure-play pork producing companies. These 26 companies contribute a total of $207 billion in revenues (65% of the total 2018 revenues for all 60 Index companies). They have a market capitalisation of $184 billion (57% of the total). The estimated revenue linked to pork production and sales alone is approximately $67 billion.

Results

  • 38% of companies that produce or sell pork have eliminated, or have a target to eliminate, gestation crates for pregnant sows.
  • 58% of companies that produce or sell pork have operations certified by programmes recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative.
  • Over 50% of companies that produce or sell pork products (or both) have no emissions targets or targets that are limited in scope.
  • Most pork producers, including those from China, are not addressing deforestation risks in their soy supply chains.
  • Over 40% of companies that produce or sell pork, including three pure-play pork producers, have no discussion on antibiotics use.

Number of pork companies ranked as high, medium or low risk by factor

 

Average score across pork companies by factor

Risk factor materiality

 

Risk factor

 

Description
GHG emissions Feed production and manure storage/processing contribute 60% and 27% of the emissions respectively from global pig supply chains. Like chicken, this is driven by the application of fertilisers and land use change from the production of feed such as soybean.

 

Intensive pork production is also vulnerable to growing climate change impacts on feed sources such as corn and soybean. Feed costs account for between 55% and 80% of the total cost of raising a pig. So any volatility in feed can have an impact on the bottom line.

 

Deforestation and biodiversity loss Soy for animal feed is the leading cause of deforestation in ecologically sensitive areas in Brazil, including in the Amazon and the Cerrado. Soy makes up around 20% of the content fed to pigs. In 2017, 90% of the soy from Brazil became animal feed, 25% of which was used as pig feed.

 

Rising pork demand from China is a leading driver of this risk. Since 1990, China’s per capita consumption of pork has doubled from 15 to 30 kg per year. Almost half of China’s soy imports come from Brazil (an increase of 2,000% since 2000) and the US–China trade war is expected to increase this reliance. Some estimates show that Brazilian production of soybeans could increase by 39% to meet Chinese demand, potentially causing extensive deforestation.

 

Water pollution

 

Like other meat proteins, extensive use of nitrogen to grow feed such as corn, and manure from intensive pork operations pollute local waterways and contaminate groundwater.

 

In the US, ‘hog lagoons’ are a common way to store pig waste from massive industrial farms. There are around 4,000 of these lagoons in North Carolina, which has the largest concentration of hog farms in the country. Manure from these lagoons is typically sprayed onto nearby farms to keep it from overflowing, creating odour and health issues. Studies have found higher incidences of hospitalisations and deaths within communities living next to hog farms. Another risk is the breach of lagoons during storms and hurricanes. This is expected to increase with climate change. In 2018, Hurricane Florence caused 132 of the state’s lagoons to become “compromised or close to being compromised by structural damage, inundation, or overtopping.” Just two lagoons that failed completely caused seven million gallons of untreated swine waste to mix with floodwaters.

 

Antibiotics Pork production is one of the largest global consumers of antibiotics. On average it uses 172 mg of antimicrobials per kg of animal produced. This is nearly four times the amount used in cattle. In the US, nearly one-third of all medically important antibiotics are sold for pig production, primarily for disease prevention. In China, the world’s largest producer of pork, one study found that the total amount of antibiotics in swine farming was 48.4 million kg in 2013, with fluoroquinolones and β-lactams (classified by the WHO as critically important to human health) contributing more than half. The Chinese government has recently launched a pilot programme to eliminate the use of antibiotics by 2020.

 

Labour conditions Multiple studies have been carried out in the US in Iowa, Pennyslvania and North Carolina, where there is a high concentration of pork production. These have found that farm workers and communities close to pig farms were in some instances six times more likely to carry the multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) compared to the general population.

 

Food safety In the US, research has shown that 71% of pork products in supermarkets carried drug-resistant bacteria. Supermarket samples of pork in Brazil, Spain and Thailand have also been found to have resistant bacteria. Increasingly, meat eaters are falling sick to these strains. In 2018, an outbreak linked to pork products in the US caused 178 known infections with 29 people needing hospital treatment. New rules by the current government will delegate more control over food safety oversight to plant owners, with no plans to test for salmonella or E Coli. The rules will also potentially remove any caps from slaughter line speeds. Currently, these are limited to 1,106 hogs per hour. Advocacy groups have documented instances of faecal contamination and diseased carcasses being allowed to pass through because of faster line speeds.

African Swine Fever (ASF) is a deadly infectious disease that affects pigs. In August 2018, an outbreak of the disease was reported in China. To date, almost five million pigs in Asia have died either directly from the disease or because they have been culled to halt the spread of the disease. Although ASF does not affect humans nor any other animal species, it has the potential to spread very rapidly and have devastating socio-economic and public health impacts. This highlights the importance of putting in place stringent food safety management systems. It also shows the need to develop full value chain traceability to manage any potential outbreak effectively.