Cargill and Nestlé align to slash Purina pet food carbon footprint

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/bearsky23
© GettyImages/bearsky23

Related tags Cargill Nestlé Purina regenerative agriculture

Nestlé and Cargill are building on their joint efforts in regenerative agriculture in a new project.

They have forged an alliance aimed at promoting that farming model within corn and soy supply chains, their goal being to not only fortify soil health but also to diminish the carbon footprint associated with Nestlé Purina's dry pet food products across North America.

The crux of their collaboration is the deployment of farming methodologies such as cover cropping, no/low tillage, crop rotation, nutrient management, and soil erosion control across a vast expanse of over 200,000 acres of corn and soy farmland in the Midwest, and a pledge to lower the carbon footprint linked to Nestlé Purina's grain supply from Cargill by a substantial 40% over the next three years.

This venture expands upon previous initatives between Cargill and Nestlé focusing on advancing regenerative agriculture in beef and cocoa supply chains. It also supports Cargill’s objective of making that farming model commonplace across its supply chains and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its extended supply chain by 30% by 2030, explained Stuart Derechin, vice president, global partner leader, Cargill.

As part of Nestlé’s global net zero commitment, by 2030, it has committed to reduce its GHG emissions by 50%, achieving net zero GHG emissions by 2050.

“Focusing on regenerative agriculture with partnerships such as this one with Cargill is a key part of helping us to achieve these net zero roadmap objectives,” says John Foster, that food giant's global category leader, cereals and grains.

What exactly is regenerative agriculture?

According to Derechin, regenerative agriculture is a way of farming that disturbs the soil as little as possible while maintaining its living cover.

“These practices improve soil health, which has the power to reduce GHG emissions, sequester carbon in the soil, improve water quality and use, and increase productivity."

Barriers to adoption 

But regenerative agriculture remains underutilized among farmers in the US, noted Derechin.

The limited adoption is chiefly attributed to various barriers such a lack of awareness regarding the economic advantages associated with this farming model, limited access to a demand market, including challenges in securing market premiums for sustainably grown crops and commodities, as well as difficulties in generating additional revenue from environmental outcomes, he said.

“That’s why we partner with farmers and support them in adopting practices that will work best for their specific location, crops, and business model. We provide farmers with a portfolio of options that deliver foundational economic and environmental benefits to their operations, access to technical and agronomic assistance, and removing financial barriers by connecting farmers to markets.”

One way it is doing so is through the Cargill RegenConnect program. “That rewards farmers for improved soil health and positive environmental outcomes and provides access to technical support through conservation agronomists. Farmers enrolled in the program can choose the practices that are best suited to their operation’s unique growing conditions, which includes planting cover crops and implementing reduced- or no-till farming.”

Nestlé Purina: "We care about making quality pet food with responsibly sourced ingredients, and that's why we are partnering with Cargill to support farmers’ transition to regenerative agricultural practices, with soil health restoration at the forefront."

Carbon footprint reduction metrics 

In relation to the specific metrics or methodologies that were used to estimate the potential 40% reduction in carbon footprint target, Derechin told us: “To inform our baseline, we calculate the emissions footprint of the ingredients Nestlé Purina sources from Cargill. Using a science-based approach, we then assess the net improvement generated by soil carbon reductions and removals through the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices.”

He maintains that Cargill, as a company that sits at the intersection of farmers and food stakeholders, is well placed to help drive this approach to farming forward: “Our strong farmer relationships also support the company’s downstream customers, who are looking to their supply chains to help them achieve their ambitious sustainability goals.”

Corn and wheat supply chain

In addition to its partnership with Cargill, Nestlé Purina is investing to support corn and wheat farmers in Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota as they transition to regenerative agriculture practices, Foster added.

“We’re also supporting rice farmers in Arkansas and Missouri with an investment to help them transition to regenerative agriculture practices, such as alternate wetting and drying (AWD), conservation tillage and crop rotation.”

And Nestlé Purina is participating in Truterra’s climate program, reported Foster. “Through that initiative, we help fund farmers’ transition to regenerative practices for corn and soy crops from regions in which we source. And another agreement sees us leveraging Arva’s agronomic optimization and carbon quantification platform to help Riceland growers make data-informed management plans.”

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