Our methodology for growing a better food system
We developed the Organic Impact Tracker to hold ourselves accountable to our commitment of encouraging farming practices that prevent synthetic pesticides from entering our food system, degrading land, and contaminating water.
Beyond providing transparency into our tracking and practices, we wanted to make it easier for everyone to understand where and how choosing organic makes a positive change in our food system, our environment, and our communities through the 5 metrics of the Organic Impact Tracker.
The Organic Impact Tracker includes 5 key metrics.
In 2022, we partnered with HowGood and Dr. Stephanie Bledsoe to measure our impact. We've made good progress so far, but as we continue to pour Tractor and bring on more pouring partners, we'll see the impact accelerate even more.
Progress for today and tomorrow
Setting the Conventional Baseline
HowGood applies its impact modeling system to assess the conventional industry average agricultural impact of each ingredient in Tractor’s products. The conventional industry average measures the impact of ingredients grown without additional certifications or standards, using conventional agricultural practices. This step is implemented for each distinct sustainability metric offered by HowGood to produce a comprehensive baseline picture of both the environmental and social impacts of every ingredient under conventional industry practices.
Analyzing the Tractor Impact Differential
HowGood then models the change in impact generated by Tractor’s organic sourcing standards and specific sourcing geographies, and subtracts those impacts from the conventional industry average. Transformation losses throughout the food value chain, including growing, processing, transportation, and cooking, are taken into account.
Explore our 5 key Organic Impact Metrics
Synthetic Pesticides Avoided*
Synthetic pesticides are human-made chemicals that include insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. They are used commonly in conventional agriculture to control pests and increase yields. The overuse of these chemicals has negative environmental consequences, including contamination of groundwater and waterways, to the detriment of human health and aquatic ecosystems.
This metric, developed by Dr. Stephanie Bledsoe of LandBack Ag, assesses the amount of synthetic insecticides, herbicides and fungicides that are prevented from entering the food system and environment as a result of growing a given ingredient using organic growing standards.
*Tractor, and not HowGood, developed the methodology for the Synthetic Pesticides Avoided metric by comparing the average amounts of synthetic pesticides associated with conventionally grown ingredients to that of organic certified ingredients. HowGood reviewed the resulting data and incorporated it into the impact assessments for Tractor.
Carbon Emissions Avoided
To derive the amount of CO2e released into the atmosphere from each ingredient, HowGood analyzes any global warming causing greenhouse gas emissions produced as a result of on-farm activities for each ingredient.
Activity taking place from “cradle to farm gate,” ie. from the growing or raising of an ingredient through to its arrival at the packing house, is considered in calculations. This approach was adopted due to the fact that, while emissions occurring later in the supply chain, such as manufacturing, storage and distribution may be significant, they are largely unchanging regardless of the standard or quality of ingredient, and thus would not contribute meaningfully to a calculation of the difference between conventional versus Tractor-sourced ingredients. Data comes primarily from peer-reviewed LCAs.
Organic Land Supported
To determine the number of square feet of land utilized by organically-grown ingredients, HowGood first determines yield numbers using United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Agricultural Statistics Services (NASS) averages. Based on the amount of each ingredient that Tractor sources from organic farms, HowGood determines the total land used to grow each organic crop. Acreage in transition from conventional to organic is calculated at 50%.
Organic agriculture uses less fossil fuel-derived fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides. As a result, there is a much lower impact on the soil and surrounding biodiversity, along with significant reductions in water eutrophication.
HowGood’s assessment of each ingredient’s water footprint impact considers the green, blue and gray water needs for each crop. Green water represents the portion of rainwater that evaporates or transpires through plants, blue water represents freshwater from lakes, rivers and aquifers, and gray water represents an estimate of the freshwater pollution due to a product or a process. Total water use is driven by variables including a crop’s geographic location, relevant certifications, and growing practices.
Though green water makes up the majority of water usage, it does not vary largely based on factors other than total land use needs per crop. Thus, most of the variation in impact comes from a reduction in gray water: responsibly-grown crops produce less excess nitrogen from chemical fertilizer runoff into surrounding waterways.
Improved Soil Health
HowGood defines soil health as a combination of intact soil structure over time and total macro and micro biodiversity held within the soil. Macro biodiversity includes invertebrates and plant material; micro biodiversity includes bacteria, fungus, and other single-celled organisms.
Acres with improved soil health are those under agricultural practices that either engage in minimal tillage, and/or use a minimal amount of chemical application that is harmful to micro or macro biodiversity.
See what else we're tracking
In addition to reporting on our 5 key Organic Impact Tracker metrics, Tractor is using HowGood's product sustainability platform, Latis, to better understand our impact across a number of social and environmental metrics, including:
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Blue Water Usage
- Soil Health
- Land Use
- Labor Risk Exposure
Built with Sustainability Experts
HowGood is an independent research company with the world’s largest food product sustainability database. Using HowGood’s industry-leading impact modeling methodology, and drawing data from 600+ third-party scientific and peer-reviewed studies, HowGood conducted a sustainability assessment for every ingredient in Tractor’s product portfolio to uncover the environmental and social impact of their products.
Select sources include the following:
- Agrobiodiversity Index
- Animal Welfare Institute
- Aquaculture Stewardship Council
- Bioversity International
- Cosmos Organic
- Demeter Certified Biodynamic
- European Commission
- Fair for Life
- Fairtrade America
- Global Animal Partnership (GAP)
- Seafood Watch
- USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)
- US Department of Labor
- US Department of State
- U.N. Food And Agriculture Organization (FAO)
- USDA Organic
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Learn about HowGood’s Research Methods
Dr. Stephanie Bledsoe, DPM, Consulting Agronomist for Tractor Beverage Co. and Co-Founder and Research Agronomist for LandBack Ag, has joined Tractor’s quest to remove synthetic pesticides from the food system by formulating the metric for Synthetic Pesticides Avoided in its Organic Impact Tracker.
Dr. Stephanie is also developing crop treatments and farming practices that will help farmers towards regenerative organic and has worked in the landscape industry, renovating pest management programs to replace harsh pesticides with safer alternatives. Her deep commitment to sustainable farming stems from having a nerve-deteriorating illness, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, during chronic pesticide exposure and subsequently, losing her 4-year-old daughter, Aisylin, conceived during this time, to stage IV neuroblastoma – a nerve-based cancer.Learn more about Dr. Stephanie