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The average American eats about 50 pounds of pork each year.

Much of it comes from industrial-scale hog farms that raise thousands of pigs at a time. All those animals create an enormous amount of waste.

On many farms, manure is flushed into pits or lagoons where it breaks down, releasing heat-trapping gases such as methane in the process.

Brandon Butler is with Roeslein Alternative Energy.

The company has partnered with Smithfield Foods, the country’s largest pork producer, to capture manure emissions on eight of Smithfield’s nine Missouri farms. Once collected, the methane is burned for energy.

“Not only are we capturing these greenhouse gases … that would have historically gone into the atmosphere, we’re also displacing the use of fossil fuel,” Butler says. “It’s almost like doubling down on the environmental benefits.”

Smithfield has installed similar technology at farms in Utah. And it’s planning more projects in other states.

“We’re really just getting started with our partnership,” Butler says.

He acknowledges it’s more expensive to capture and pipe methane from farms than to drill for natural gas. But as pressure to address climate change grows, companies and governments may see it as a worthwhile strategy to reduce methane pollution.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media