The meat industry is the fourth largest food exporting sector in Chile and pork represents 62% of the total. Because of that, the sector has a clear impact on the country’s economy and growth. Currently, over 12,000 people work directly in the sector and 10,000 indirectly, mainly in the rural areas of the Metropolitan, O’Higgins and Maule Regions. The industry also works with about 9,000 suppliers, 68% of which are small businesses, with a direct impact on more than 100,000 people and their families.
The sector is continuously investing in the acquisition and adaptation of the best technologies to meet the demands of both the Chilean and other destination markets, taking into consideration the impact on the environment or natural resources. Given this scenario, the industry has implemented a series of actions in the last decade to mitigate and reduce odors by using technologies to treat the slurry produced at the farms.
These actions have had positive effects, such as a 32% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions between 2000 and 2018, and the fact that over 65% of the slurry is currently being treated with advanced treatment systems such as activated sludge, worm trickling systems, and biodigesters. Daniela Álvarez, Sustainability Deputy Manager of the Chilean Meat Exporters’ Association, ChileCarne, explains, “the Chilean pork sector has made remarkable progress in technologies and improvements in the last 10 years advancing our position in international markets where we compete with products from Brazil, the United States, Spain, Denmark, and other European countries.”
A realistic standard: Meet the goals while remaining a sustainable business
On July 22, 2020, the preliminary draft for the first Chilean environmental standard for odors was published in the Official Gazette. The Pollutant Emission Standard in Pig Farms aims to protect the health of the population and improve their quality of life by preventing and controlling odor emissions from pig farms. The preliminary draft states that this is the first regulation that attempts to regulate odor emissions in Chile.
Last December, the Ministry of the Environment launched a citizens’ consultation process for the draft that will be open until March 12, 2021. Additionally, they conducted a series of activities (workshops, webinars, and round tables) for all parties involved to debate and reflect on the current draft proposal.
Daniela Álvarez has participated in many of these events and points out that “these opportunities for dialogue are key because the Ministry is extending an invitation to an open regulatory process, gathering every experience that enriches the draft.”
On January 12, the Ministry of the Environment organized a webinar with the renowned scholars Ingrid Rebolledo, Director of Innovation and Linking with the Environment at Universidad INACAP; Professor Germán Aroca, specialist in odor management from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso; and Rolando Chamy, Director of the Curauma Biotechnology Nucleus. The experts were asked about the pros and cons of the preliminary draft and they all highlighted the need for this type of regulation.
However, they also noted remaining shortcomings that the field of science still needs to work on to create direct methods for odor measurement that do not currently exist, so as to further clarify estimates of the effectiveness of various technologies and treatments available. The scholars also highlighted the need to provide environmental education to the community given the complexity of understanding these issues and the novelty of this first regulation.
Efficient Danish pig production model separates rural and urban sectors to categorize odor nuisance levels
Another interesting initiative was the round table organized last November by the Danish Embassy in Chile. On that occasion, the Danish pig production model was discussed due to its efficiency in production, management, and handling of this issue. The main speaker was the Danish pig production expert, Peter Nygaard, who explained that Denmark is one of the main pig producers worldwide in terms of area and population density, and that production takes place in relatively few large farms.
According to the information provided, the Danish standard sets limits on odor nuisance for three different categories depending on where homes are located (urban, intermediate or rural area), with limits of 5, 7 and 15 OUE per m3. It was also noted that there will always be some level of odor associated with livestock production. “In Denmark, the practice is to consider these areas as agricultural and therefore their inhabitants must accept some of the disadvantages of being next to a pig farm. Thus, rural inhabitants must tolerate higher odor levels from livestock farming than the urban ones. This is precisely why Denmark introduced differentiated odor nuisance categories, with different requirements depending on the population density of the area,” Nygaard explained.
On this issue, Daniela Álvarez pointed out that “Denmark is recognized as an international leader in pig production and sustainability, and therefore it is helpful to know how odor regulations work in that country first-hand. A regulation with limits differentiated by area sounds right to me, recognizing the different population densities and the vocation of the territories.” She concluded that “the pig sector is already responding to this demand with the investments and the technology implemented in the last decade. To keep moving forward, we expect to have a standard that will provide certainty to all interested parties as soon as possible.”
INFOGRAPHIC 1: According to the data collected by the Pork Producers Trade Association, ASPROCER, 83 pig farms in Chile will be affected by the regulation. 52% of them are located in the O’Higgins Region and 25% in the Metropolitan Region.
INFOGRAPHIC 2: Comparative figures for pig production in Chile and Denmark:
|Live pigs||2.7 million||13 million
|Pigs for slaughter produced every year||9.5 million
|Annual pig production||600,000 tons||1,600,000 tons
|Total area||756,950 km2||42,933 km2
|Population (inhabitants)||18.7 million||5.7 million