Pilgrim’s Pride: COVID-19, Brexit, packaging and sustainability

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Pork processor Pilgrim's Pride has revealed a series of sustainability measures across its UK sites
Pork processor Pilgrim's Pride has revealed a series of sustainability measures across its UK sites

Related tags coronavirus Brexit

Pilgrim’s Pride head of sustainability Matt Dight told Food Manufacture about the role COVID-19, Brexit and packaging will play in the future of the meat processor’s sustainability plans.

In a bid to make packaging more sustainable within the business, Pilgrim’s Pride has subscribed to five fundamental principles – remove, reduce, reuse, responsibility and research.

There is a focus within the business to use plastics that are more environmentally friendly, Dight said. However, restrictions surrounding the reusability of food grade plastics, as well as pressure from retailers, resulted in more work being needed in that area.

Recyclability focus

Commenting on single-use plastics and recyclable packaging, Dight said: “Reusable packaging solutions for our products is not something currently available, but we keep it in there as an item of focus.

“When​ [packaging solutions] are suggested we can take them to our customers to see if they would work – both in terms of moving the products that we produce into packaging that’s considered widely recyclable, but also insuring that it’s sufficient for creating a circular economy for plastics.”

While Dight acknowledged the work needed to make the packaging used by Pilgrim’s Pride more sustainable, he argued that plastics still had their use when it came to preventing food waste.

Understated risk

“Food waste is an understated risk to the environment and insuring that we don’t create a bigger problem with food waste by removing plastic is critical,”​ he explained. “So it’s about finding the right mix of plastics and doing it in a responsible way and reducing and removing what we can.”

Dight also commented on the impact the coronavirus pandemic and the looming threat of Brexit had on Pilgrim’s Pride’s sustainability plans.

“Yes, COVID-19 will impact our sustainability plans, in a sense of engaging with people, not the core of the ambition,”​ he added. “A lot of it is about education – talking and engaging with everyone in our supply chain – and if you can’t do that face to face, it’s less engaging by definition.

“As for Brexit, my strategy is about improving the supply chain as a whole, regardless of where it’s coming from. This strategy will work to whatever is thrown at it – it’s just going to make it more challenging.”

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