The carbon-attuned chicken

June 1, 2011
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Gold’n Plump Poultry packages chickens at three price points, including its premium Just Bare brand, which touts its carbon consciousness with a certification seal from the Carbon Trust on the back of the container.

All chickens are not created equal, even when they’re raised and processed by the same company. That’s why Gold’n Plump (GNP) Poultry recently added a value brand to a product line that already included a namesake chicken and a premium bird that sports the first carbon disclosure statement on a US chicken.

Packages of Just Bare chicken from St. Cloud, MN-based GNP Co. bear a certification seal from the Carbon Trust, a not-for-profit created by the British government. Carbon Trust participants commit to reducing CO2 emissions through greater energy-efficiency and development of low-carbon technology. Just Bare is the second participating US food brand, following PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats.

Lifecycle analysis determined the carbon footprint for various cuts of Just Bare, accounting for every input from feed grains to post-consumption waste disposal. A whole Just Bare chicken’s carbon allotment is 380g, according to Julie Berling, director-brand advocacy, while boneless skinless breast fillets clock in at 900g.

Consumer research, including a 1,000-member customer panel, drove creation of Just Bare and the value-priced Sunny Roost brand, Berling says. A waste heat-recovery project at the firm’s recently expanded Arcadia, WI plant and a change in feed pellets to a more digestible shape that also reduces the mill’s energy inputs benefit all three brands, she notes, but sustainability claims are limited to the “less is more” Just Bare brand.

Package integrity is important across the board, and three of five customers rate GNP’s package quality superior to competing products. “We’re continually trying to find materials that are sustainable but also meet production demands,” says Berling, though results have been mixed. A linerless label that does away with a release liner or peel-away backer was judged a modest improvement. On the other hand, a switch to clear PET trays for select products was prompted by recyclability, but Berling said few recycling centers actually accept them.

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