Making a PACT with consumers
The Protein PACT and the call for producer feedback
Together, the Animal Agriculture Alliance, Beef Alliance, Dairy Management, Inc., Elance, Institute for Feed Education and Research, National Corn Growers Association, We Care Commitment, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Institute, United Soybean Board, U.S. Meat Export Federation, and U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef have formed the Protein PACT. The goal is to strengthen animal protein’s contributions to healthy people, healthy animals, healthy communities, and a healthy environment by working within the organizations and across the industry to create transparent baselines for improvement, to set ambitious targets for progress, and to communicate those efforts.
One of the drivers of the PACT is the Meat Institute’s sustainability framework, which is currently in draft format and open for feedback. According to the group’s website, the five core areas for making commitments, tracking progress, and delivering improvements are to provide the most humane care and raise healthy animals; support a diverse workforce and ensure safe workplaces; produce safe products without exception; provide wide variety of high-quality protein for balanced diets; and optimize contributions to healthy land, air, and water.
The Meat Institute’s framework focuses on measuring impact and making commitments for the area where the Meat Institute has the most direct impact, in the packing and processing space. According to the draft, the efforts will complement and strengthen efforts by farmers and producer groups and also bridge to actions in grocery stores, restaurants, and homes. The Meat Institute’s framework will undergo consultation and incorporation of feedback with a timeframe of publicly reported commitments and delivered progress in all five focus areas by 2030.
MEETING CONSUMERS EXPECTATIONS
NAMI partnered with members, supply chain partners, and sustainability experts and, according to Eric Mittenhal, NAMI’s vice president of sustainability, this effort will take the feedback of producers and use it to demonstrate to consumers that agriculture producers are meeting consumer expectations. Not a marketing campaign, the PACT is a tool to measure and demonstrate continuous improvement in sustainability within the industry. The NAMI’s framework is specific to the packing and processing sectors and how they can continue improvement within their own companies. Mittenhal said there has been significant sustainability work throughout the supply chain, and NAMI is working with those supply chain partners to communicate the work they’ve done to showcase all of the sustainability improvements across the industry.
The NAMI framework is currently producer-facing as the Institute gathers feedback from producers. It will, he said, be consumer facing in the future as it’s used as a tool to measure and demonstrate progress toward specified goals. The indicators that will be measured are: animal welfare (animal handling, transportation); environment (greenhouse gases, water use, solid waste, food waste, land use, and supplier commitments); food safety (food safety programs, foreign material control and prevention, accredited third-party audit); health and wellness (diverse healthy diets, advancing nutrition science, food security contributions); and labor and human rights (labor: employee retention, employee complaints, diversity and inclusion, audits and certifications; worker safety: hazard recognition, worker safety training, safety communication, and employee engagement).
According to the draft, progress and member participation across all five focus area will be reported as the baseline, where members transparently demonstrate compliance with all rules and regulations; commit, where members have commitments (public or private) on indicators and focus areas; track, where members track performance data specific to indicators and focus areas; and deliver, where members deliver on their commitments.
At this point, the NAMI is requesting producer feedback on the framework, which can be done by visiting the Protein PACT website.
“We are partners with (producers) in making our entire supply chain more sustainable,” he said. “We are active partners with the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, the National Pork Board, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry and Eggs. Everything we are doing aligns with producer-led efforts that are being done by those groups as well.”
The benefit of the PACT to producers is the ability to prove to consumers that protein producers are meeting the values and expectations of consumers, in turn raising consumer confidence in products.
The PACT is funded by the partner groups, and though the NAMI is a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, those funds are not being utilized for the project. Mittenhal said this is a continuous improvement effort that will be shared with consumers.
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