CHICAGO — The American Egg Board has named Hema Prado to the newly created role of director of sustainability. Reporting to Dr. Mickey Rubin, executive director of the AEB’s Egg Nutrition Center, Prado will oversee development and administration of a comprehensive new sustainability program encompassing critical industry-level research and education initiatives with significant potential value to U.S. egg producers and their food industry customers.
The creation of the role and Prado’s recruitment reflect the AEB’s strategic commitment to serve as a partner and resource on sustainability, hen care and other corporate social responsibility issues of importance to egg industry customers, AEB said.
Prado brings 20 years of experience and passion for environmental, agricultural and health issues spanning government, nonprofits and the private sector, notably including her most recent positions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She has built and led initiatives with broad and diverse stakeholders by focusing on strategic approaches, problem-solving and innovation.
“Everything we do at the American Egg Board is designed to meet consumers where they are and is derived from data and insights,” AEB President & CEO Emily Metz said. “As far as the consumer is concerned, sustainability, animal welfare and purpose-driven production are the new table stakes in the food industry — comparable to traditional product benefits like quality, nutritional value and affordability. Hema Prado has the experience and expertise to lead the research and education programs that will support the egg industry and its customers in telling this important production and environmental story and innovating around these values — securing the consumer’s trust and assuring prosperity for future generations of U.S. egg farmers.”
According to Ketchum Analytics’ Brand Reckoning 2020 study, most Americans (51 percent) now define sustainability as the “ability to produce and provide food to people responsibly, in ways that protect people and the planet and ensure food is available when people want and need it.”
Moreover, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, three-fourths of Americans associate sustainability with safety (77 percent); recyclable/reusable packaging (77 percent); economic viability of food production (76 percent); less food waste (76 percent); and environmental protection (75 percent).
The AEB’s new program under Prado has a broad directive focused on bringing greater clarity and scientific rigor to bear across a host of key issues in the environmental and sustainability fields, as well as in animal welfare and workforce and social responsibility, AEB added.
The program aims to work closely with multiple stakeholders within and outside of the egg industry, including governmental agencies, NGOs and broader agriculture, to establish industry-level metrics and data, and to arm producers, retailers, foodservice and manufacturers with a definitive and comprehensive source of objective information about U.S. egg production.
The new program will also be fully integrated with the AEB’s Food Chain Outreach function working to forge relationships with food industry thought leaders in these important areas.
“The issues we plan to address are complex,” Prado said. “Sustainability entails everything from responsible environmental stewardship to animal welfare to food waste and much more. The solutions will require a big tent. I’m looking forward to engaging and partnering with our egg industry and agriculture stakeholders, our customers and parties outside of the industry — including environmental groups, technologists and thought leaders — to develop proactive, scientifically sound and rigorous solutions to the challenges we face.
“At the end of the day, we hope to not only prescribe how to effect and measure continuous on-farm improvement, but also to provide our partners in retail, foodservice and manufacturing with the data and tools they need to track and forecast the industry’s progress and drive their own decisions.”
Prado will support a key focus outlined in the AEB’s new strategic vision and five-year plan: industry efforts to advance the science that measures on-farm continuous improvement in the areas of sustainability, hen care and other purpose-driven production metrics, as well as enhance understanding of the role of eggs in sustainable food and agricultural systems.
Prado will also focus on partnering with the industry to drive continuous improvement and work to align that improvement to downstream sustainability goals. To that end, the AEB is working in lockstep partnership with egg industry trade association United Egg Producers (UEP) across industry initiatives on multiple fronts, including on the egg industry’s most comprehensive lifecycle assessment to date, conducted in partnership with the Egg Industry Center located at Iowa State University.
The AEB and UEP are also both members of the multi-stakeholder U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Eggs and the International Poultry Welfare Alliance. Prado joins the AEB from EPA, where she was most recently senior advisor for agriculture in the Office of the Administrator, and previously worked on regulatory and voluntary programs related to animal agriculture, pesticides, and water quality.
Prado helped transform EPA’s relationships with agriculture beyond the regulatory box to becoming a partner and technical resource for the food supply chain around shared environmental goals. Prado also had several previous years of experience at nonprofits, including as director of an international program to bring medicine and nutrition to children in remote rural villages at Progressive Health Worldwide and an analyst on agricultural and toxics issues at Environmental Working Group.
Prado has an M.S. in environmental management from University of Maryland University College and a B.A. in environmental studies and psychology from Pitzer College.