The Climate Track is Danish Crown’s farmers’ programme for the journey towards sustainable meat. It all begins with a climate control of all producers, whereby the farmer maps out their current status, and sets three-year development goals in four main areas – environment & climate, energy, animal welfare & antibiotics and social responsibility.
Under the Climate Track, each cooperative member commits to Danish Crown’s climate goal of reducing its climate impact by 50% in 2030. The vision is to produce meat that is (net) climate neutral in 2050.
Through the Climate Track, we are working closely with farmers towards the production of sustainable meat.
Farmers already active
For decades, our cooperative members have focused on a number of initiatives on their farms which have considerably improved environmental and climate impacts. Several things have contributed to the positive trend. Feed efficiency, feed mixtures, manure management in pig buildings and fields, and the use of environmental technologies have all contributed to greater sustainability.
In relation to the environmental impact, key factors include the quantity of feed used per kilogram of meat, and utilising as much of the pig as possible. If the amount of feed used to produce a pig can be reduced, this will also reduce the environmental impact. Danish farmers have successfully improved efficiency, so that the amount of feed needed to produce 1 kg of pork has fallen significantly over the last several years.
Farmers have also become better at managing livestock manure and optimising land use.
The biggest climate impacts in our food production in the factories derive from our energy and water consumption, transportation and packaging.
Our eco-management system lies at the heart of our factories’ environmental efforts. This integrates both the environment and the working environment. Our pig abattoirs have been certified in line with international eco-management standards since 2005, and these serve as the engine to guide the conditions and achieve progress.
Energy and water consumption
Abattoir operations and meat processing require a lot of energy and a lot of water. Much of the energy consumption goes toward cooling down the animal carcasses, while much of the water consumption goes toward cleaning.
The abattoirs have had a constant focus on water and energy consumption since the mid-80s, and have continuously optimised production processes. This includes by purchasing new production equipment with low water and energy consumption. Food safety requirements have been constantly increasing during the same period. These requirements have resulted in greater consumption of hot water and electricity for refrigeration.
Despite the greater demands, we have not consumed more water over the last many years, because we are constantly working strategically on water and energy saving projects that allow us to save in other areas.
Every time we invest in new technology, we assess whether the equipment we are installing in the abattoirs has the best environment standards. We set environment requirements for our suppliers, and after the equipment has been installed, we verify that the requirements have been met.
Another potential source of environmental pollution at the abattoirs is the discharge of organically loaded wastewater. This contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and readily convertible organic material, which derives in part from the manure and blood that ends up in the sewer when the animals are cut open.
Particulate matter is filtered out of the wastewater before it is discharged into the public sewerage system and treatment plant. Because the waste water contains substances that are easily converted in a biological purification plant, it can help to purify other wastewater when there is a lack of carbon in the treatment plant.
We also have a strong focus on the cleaning products we use. When external cleaning companies clean our facilities, they submit a list of cleaning products. We environmentally screen against a positive list, which takes into account the impact of the products on the aquatic environment, among other factors. Products may only be used if they fulfil the requirements.
We are also continually working to identify and phase out the most environmentally harmful products.
For example, we are taking part in the large DRIP project – Danish partnership for Resource and water efficient Industrial food Production.
Transport is a climate challenge, and we are working on several parameters in relation to this. For example, we set requirements in our tender documents, so that the companies that bid on projects for us are obligated to have the most efficient logistics possible. In relation to our own fleet, we generate reports on driving patterns and fuel consumption, and continually train our drivers – in order to reduce the energy consumption from driving.
When food is produced, there are a number of requirements governing how the packaging must protect the food. We are working to reduce the packaging, within the legal framework, for example by experimenting with thinner films. Another option is to vacuum pack our meat. This leads to a longer shelf life and less food waste, but a vacuum-packed product looks less appealing than meat presented in a meat tray. Customers therefore often do not demand this solution, even though we can provide it.
Together with a number of partners, we have developed a new type of meat tray that contains a large proportion of recyclable plastic – the PET plastic which is also used for water bottles. It can be reused to store food, despite being recycled many times, and is therefore an ideal alternative to the current type of plastic.
Nothing goes to waste
Danish Crown is not only one of the world’s largest pork producers, we are also one of the most efficient meat producers in the world. This is because we not only produce meat, but also focus on producing and recycling other products as much as possible.
It is our job to squeeze as much value as possible out of the product we sell for our owners, while also taking care of the environment. Everything on the pig is therefore utilised.
Here are a few examples:
- The heat from the carcasses is used to heat water for cleaning, and the manure from the intestines is used in biogas production.
- The transport manure (the sawdust that is removed from the pig truck before it is washed and disinfected) is used on farmland.
- When abattoir waste ends up at Daka – which collects residues from the food industry and recycles them – it can be turned into meat-and-bone meal.
- The residue left over from this process is ash. This is currently sold to Aalborg Portland which makes cement – so the pigs end up as part of the pavement.
- The small intestine mucosa is used to produce heparin, a blood thinning medication.
How we handle plastic and packaging
Each week, trucks pass through the gates at Danish Crown’s abattoirs carrying large quantities of cardboard and packaging materials. And once the finished products from the abattoirs have been packed, they are shipped out again by truck to customers in Denmark and abroad.
We are continuously working to find alternative packaging solutions that benefit the environment. For example, we have developed a new variant of the corrugated cardboard in the lid used for the majority of our packaging which significantly reduces the carbon footprint. The new corrugated cardboard is 27 per cent thinner, but still has sufficient strength and durability to meet our customer’s needs.
We collect all plastic waste from our packaging machines and sell it to various waste companies that further utilise it.
Plastic that has been in contact with meat cannot currently be recycled, but we are continually trying, together with various partners, to develop equipment that can make this possible in the future.
We also have large quantities of return packaging in the form of boxes, and plastic or steel containers. All of this circulates in large return systems, which we are also constantly working to optimise.