Environmental factors in the beef supply chain include biodiversity, air emissions, water use, energy use, land management, waste and by-products. We support environmental sustainability efforts by cattle producers and through our active membership in the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef, a multi-stakeholder organization working to continuously improve the beef industry. In our own operations, we conserve natural resources, improve water and energy efficiency, and reduce solid waste and reliance on fossil fuels. We use an environmental management system based upon the requirements of ISO 14001 at all our beef and cattle feeder locations.
Cargill beef processing facilities have improved water use efficiency by more than 20 percent since water reduction goals were first established in 2001. Our award-winning water conservation efforts at our Friona, Texas beef processing plant, for example, have reduced water use by 19 percent over the past six years, saving more than 125 million gallons when comparing 2008 water usage to 2014. Treated water from the plant is provided to local farmers for crop production, reducing their need for water from an underground aquifer. The plant team has created methods for capturing water used in heat exchangers and other equipment that can be reused for exterior plant cleaning.
Recovering methane gas and turning waste into energy
At all of our large harvesting facilities, we capture methane gas created by bacterial breakdown of organic materials in our water treatment ponds. The methane is used as a fuel source to heat boilers containing water to produce steam for plant sanitation. This technology allows us to capture methane gas that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere if not captured in our anaerobic lagoons while reducing the need for natural gas in the facility by about 25 percent. Waste-to-energy initiatives also have helped reduce fossil fuel use at our facilities by as much as 40 percent. At our High River, Alberta, facility in Canada, for example, use of biogas combined with a waste-to-energy project allows the plant to generate up to 49 percent of the energy it uses for production. This collaboration is the first of its type in North America and the largest single waste-to-energy project Cargill has undertaken on the continent. High River is one of the most energy-independent meat plants in North America.
Our Fresno, CA, beef processing plant uses solar energy to pre-heat water used throughout the plant for food safety and sanitation purposes, reducing fossil fuel energy requirements, thereby reducing the facility’s environmental footprint. The plant also captures nearly 30 percent of its natural gas requirements from methane gathered through anaerobic digestion at its onsite water treatment ponds. The methane is used to heat water for the plant’s food safety and sanitation purposes.
We recycle and reuse materials at all our beef production facilities. In 2015, our Hazleton, PA, facility was verified landfill-free by Ann Arbor, Michigan-based NSF International. The 225,000-square-foot plant produces more than 10 million pounds of meat products monthly, but sends no waste to landfills.