Exploring variation in economic, environmental and societal performance among Dutch fattening pig farms

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Sustainable production of pork requires farms that are economically viable, ecologically sound and socially acceptable, both now and in the future. Promising mitigation options to improve the integrated sustainability of a pig farm can be deduced from variation in their economic, environmental and societal performance. This study explores the variation in sustainability performance among 27 specialized fattening pig farms in the Dutch Farm Accountancy Data Network. Moreover, the combined sustainability performance is quantified, in order to identify the characteristics of best performing farms. To quantify the economic performance we used the net farm income (NFI) and labor productivity. With a life cycle assessment (LCA) the environmental performance was quantified for land occupation (LO), non-renewable energy use (NREU), global warming potential (GWP), eutrophication potential (EP) and acidification potential (AP). To quantify the societal performance the usage of antibiotics and the pig mortality rate were used. The average NFI was -€3.1 per 100 kg slaughtered weight (SW), produced with a labor productivity of 0.4 h per 100 kg SW. To produce 100 kg of SW, a total LO and NREU were needed of respectively 1121 m2 and 2802 MJ. GWP was 546 kg CO2-eq per 100 kg SW, of which 31% CO2, 7% from CH4, and 62% from N2O. Total EP was 61.4 kg NO3--eq/100 kg SW, of which 53% from leaching of nitrate and 23% from phosphate. Total AP was 5.3 kg SO2-eq per 100 kg SW, of which 79% NH3, 11% from NOx and 10% from SO2. The use of antibiotics per 100 kg SW averaged 18.9 daily dosages per animal year. The number of deceased pigs per 100 kg SW averaged 0.03. There is a high variation in economic, environmental and societal performance among fattening pig farms. Farm characteristics related to scale positively affect economic and environmental performance. A low feed intake and a feeding ration with a high share of wet by-products positively affect the environmental performance. To identify explanatory farm characteristics from FADN for societal performance, more suitable indicators are needed. Best performing farms, which outperform on economic, environmental and societal performance do exist and are on average larger and are feeding a higher proportion of by-products. To understand the characteristics of an integrative sustainable fattening pig farm, more insight is needed in the entrepreneurial characteristics and the drivers to manage and perform in a more profitable, environmental friendly and societally acceptable way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-154
JournalLivestock Science
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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