Perdue Farms will start packaging some of its meat products in a more earth-friendly way with compostable foam made of cornstarch that disintegrates under running water.
The company said the new packaging is part of its commitment to a 30% reduction by 2022 in greenhouse gas emissions per pound of its product. The Salisbury, Maryland, family-owned business, which turns 100 years old this year, is one of the largest chicken, turkey, beef and pork processing firms in the United States. It produces meat for several brands, including Coleman Natural, Perdue Harvestland and Niman Ranch.
“We’ve had significant conversations at the company in the past year about our sustainability efforts and what more we can do to reduce the impact on the environment,” said David Zucker, Perdue Farms’ senior vice president of e-commerce and new ventures.
Zucker said Perdue Farms already uses some recyclable packaging on its products: Although its conventional meat products sold in grocery stores are still wrapped in plastic and foam trays, its organic products are packaged in recyclable foam trays available in some locations, he said. But not all locations recycle foam, so it’s not a perfect solution to the packaging waste problem.
The new compostable foam could be a more sustainable solution: Even if people have concerns with pouring cornstarch down their drains, the foam will dissolve in a landfill. It will at first be available only to customers who buy online, but Perdue said it is exploring ways to continue to make its packaging across the whole business more sustainable.
Perdue Farms announced Tuesday that it would begin selling frozen meat products directly to consumers via its new website PerdueFarms.com and will expand online sales to all of its meat products later this year.
All of the shipping packaging for the online orders will be recyclable or compostable, said Steve Levitsky, Perdue Farms’ vice president of sustainability. The meat to be shipped is encased in a recyclable box and a foam cooler made from water-soluable cornstarch, which can be composted or disintegrated when mixed with water. Levitsky said some of the plastic wrap on the meat is also recyclable but first needs to be thoroughly washed and sanitized.
Going forward, Perdue Farms aims to make all of its packaging recyclable.
“We are working with our [packaging] vendors to help bring down the cost of the recyclable material so we can achieve that,” Zucker said.
“What Perdue is doing with its sustainability initiative is spot on with trends in the meat industry,” said Chris Dubois, senior vice president with market research firm IRI.
“The recycling piece is just the next frontier. The non-recyclable foam packaging for meat products is a big pain point for consumers,” said Dubois.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated when Perdue Farms' hopes to achieve a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per pound of its product.