10.3 Carbon Footprint and Labelling of Dairy Products -Possibilities and difficulties

Anna Flysjö , Arla Foods, Viby, Denmark
Christel Cederberg , SIK - the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, Gothenburg, Sweden
Jan Dalsgaard Johannesen , Arla Foods, Viby, Denmark
Full Papers
  • FINAL paper to JAOCC Carbon footprint and labelling of dairy products challanges and opportunities.pdf (171.9 kB)
  • During the last couple of years there has been a large focus on food and its contribution to global warming. Food production is one of the major contributors of green house gas (GHG) emissions. Especially the livestock sector is dominating the GHG emissions, as it stands for approximately eighteen percent of the anthropogenic global warming (Steinfeld et al 2006). The rising concern about humans’ contribution to global warming has put a pressure on industry, politicians and other stakeholders to act. As one reaction, carbon labelling has come up as one attempt to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from products, by helping consumers to choose products that give rise to less GHG emissions.   Lifecycle assessment (LCA) has since beginning of the nineties been used to calculate the environmental impact (where contribution to global warming is one impact category) from products, using a lifecycle perspective. The large focus on carbon labelling has started a development of standards and guidelines, specifically designed for calculating the “carbon footprint” of products. One of the most discussed is PAS 2050 (2008), prepared by British Standard Institute (BSI). The PAS 2050 is to large extend based on the ISO 14040 (ISO 2006a) and ISO 14044 (ISO 2006b), but is in some areas more specific on how to calculate the carbon footprint. However, there are still room for interpretations, as well as in the ISO standard, and it is therefore important to discuss what various assumptions might result in. Analysing the contribution to global warming from food products might be even more difficult than for the other sectors (eg electricity, energy, transport) dominating the emissions of GHG, since agricultural systems consists of biological process, which are complex processes and calculations/estimates include large uncertainties.   Possibilities At the dairy company Arla Foods, the energy use and its related GHG emissions has been reported for more than ten years. For 2005 and onwards the total GHG emissions have been calculated (i.e. total carbon footprint), from “cradle to gate” (including milk production, all inputs to the dairy, transports and delivery to store and also waste management at consumer). This is a first step in the company’s goal to reduce their GHG emissions by 25% by 2020 (compared to 2005 year’s level). The reduction goal includes all activities at the dairy site, all packaging material and all transports. However, the production of the milk is not included. The method on how Arla Foods works with and reports their GHG emissions is presented here. Also the total carbon footprint from the company is presented together with a discussion on possible ways to continue from here. The largest GHG emissions, however, occur at the primary production, and the paper also put emphasis on understanding the activities before the dairy, i.e. the milk production.   Difficulties Milk and dairy products are here also used as example to show the difficulties with carbon footprint; 1) methodological aspects on how the calculations are performed, 2) the uncertainties with biological systems. Milk is one of the more frequent food items investigated using LCA and here previous studies are used to illustrate what the results are, based on various assumptions.   Analysing different methodological aspects on how to perform carbon footprint on milk shows there are some critical aspects to consider. One of the choices, which might give largest variation to the results, is how to handle by-products. The cow does not only produce milk, but also meat and calves, which is used for meat production, and it is therefore necessary to distribute the environmental burden (i.e. GHG emissions) between milk and meat. Various ways exists how to do this, and here a comparison is made between system expansion, physical-causality allocation and economic allocation (Cederberg and Stadig, 2003). Also, different farms produce milk in different ways (i.e. uses different feeds and other inputs), which gives that milk from different farms give rise to different amount of GHG emissions (Cederberg et al 2007, Cederberg and Flysjö 2004). So comparing the carbon footprint (at least for milk) from different studies can be very difficult.   Except the methodological issues, there are also uncertainties in the calculation of for example methane and nitrous oxide, due to the complexity in the systems and difficulties to measure. Methane is responsible for around 45-65% and nitrous oxide for around 20-35% of the total GHG emissions for milk (ex farm gate). Here a simple sensitivity analysis is made on the emission factors used for calculating methane and nitrous oxide, to show the uncertainty and importance of these emissions.   However, even though there are different possibilities to calculate and many uncertainties, it is still important to assess how large the contribution to global warming is from various products. Hence, it is important to know what different choices and assumptions might have for effect on the final results. It is also important for stakeholders to get an understanding of the complexity of the systems and not to stress decisions or take decisions on wrong information/bases.   References Cederberg C & Stadig M. 2003. System Expansion and Allocation in Life Cycle Assessment of Milk and Beef Production. Int J LCA 8 (6) 350-356   Cederberg C, Flysjö A & Ericson L. 2007. Livscykelanalys (LCA) av norrländsk mjölkproduktion. Rapport 761, SIK, Institutet för livsmedel och bioteknik, Göteborg   Cederberg C & Flysjö A. 2004. Life cycle Inventory of 23 Dairy Farms in South-Western Sweden. Rapport 728. SIK Institutet för livsmedel och bioteknik, Göteborg   ISO (2006a): Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Principles and framework. ISO 14040:2006(E). International Organization for Standardization. Geneva. Switzerland   ISO (2006b): Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Requirements and guidelines. ISO 14044:2006(E). International Organization for Standardization. Geneva. Switzerland.   PAS 2050:2008, Publicly Available Specification, Specification for the assessment of life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services, BSI, British Standard Institute, London

    Steinfeld H, Gerber P, Wassenaar T, Castel V, Rosales M & de Haan C. 2006. Livestock´s Long Shadow. Environmental issues and options. FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome