During a recent conversation at the U.N. Climate Change Conference, Eric Mittenthal, Chief Strategy Officer at the North American Meat Institute, highlighted the power of partnerships, collaboration, and data in cultivating a more sustainable meat industry. The session, held at the Sustainable Agriculture of the Americas Pavilion, was organized in partnership with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Pegasus Capital, Producers Trust, and the Forum for Farmers and Food Security (3FS).
The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) is a nonprofit, industry trade association that advocates for and supports more than 350 meat companies responsible for producing over 95 percent of the United States’ output of meat and poultry products.
In 2021, NAMI launched their strategy, Protein PACT, a framework aimed at taking a consistent approach toward sustainability.
“For us, sustainability is animal welfare, environmental impact, food safety, human health and wellness, and labor and human rights,” says Mittenthal. “All of those are really critical to be part of the sustainability puzzle for our industry.”
NAMI developed metrics within the Protein PACT to support and drive continuous improvement across the meat industry in a way that aligns with global goals and standards. According to Mittenthal, they have more than 90 metrics, which NAMI evaluates on an annual basis. They are continuously working with their members to share and develop this data, indicating where the industry currently stands and goals for between now and 2030.
“This is a major culture change for our industry,” Mittenthal says. Before 2022, the meat industry didn’t engage in organizational-level data sharing. In the initial year of data sharing within NAMI’s membership, they successfully brought 90 percent of the industry by volume to report data through the Protein PACT framework.
“Protein PACT is also a collaborative effort throughout the whole animal agriculture supply chain because there’s substantial work occurring throughout all of animal agriculture when it comes to sustainability,” says Mittenthal.
According to Mittenthal, NAMI functions as an umbrella organization that harmonizes the efforts of beef, pork, poultry, dairy, feed, and animal health companies, fostering alignment across all sectors through data systems.
Addressing concerns regarding greenwashing in the meat industry, Mittenthal calls attention to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). According to the FAO, animal protein is uniquely nutrient dense and irreplaceable by other foods in a way that helps people’s livelihoods and nutrition.
“We feel like our industry has a critical and necessary role to play in this discussion,” says Mittenthal. “It is really holistic and is critical for healthy development and healthy cognitive development.”
Mittenthal goes on to explain that NAMI’s collaboration with a number of environmental organizations are critical to their capacity to create impact.
“The solution for improving everyone’s impact on the climate is not a one organization or one industry solution,” he says. “It takes everybody and that’s why you see 80,000 people here at COP where everyone wants to highlight the contributions they can make and the opportunities we have throughout a variety of industries to ensure we’re making progress.”
Watch the full conversation below.
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