environmental impact of food processing industry

The climate benefits of eating locally are much smaller than people think. This is different from poultry and pig farming: 61% of pork, 81% of chicken and 86% of eggs are produced intensively in industrial-farm settings.33 These systems are very similar wherever they are in the world. Most of the variation between countries comes from how much meat and dairy products they eat. Foods which are air-freighted tend to be those which are highly perishable. As there's such a strong demand compunded by a lack of supply, inevitably - and regrettably - there's a major growth in food fraud cases. However, food facilities in China are beginning to come back to life. How do the water footprints of different food products compare? GWP measures the relative warming impact one molecule or unit mass of a greenhouse gas relative to carbon dioxide over a given timescale – usually over 100 years. The 2018 Pew Research Center Survey polled people across the world on global threats: in many countries more than 8-in-10 people said that climate change was a major threat to their country. Manure management, pasture management, and fuel consumption from fishing vessels also fall into this category. The mean footprint of beef from dairy herds is 17 kgCO2eq; from dedicated beef herds it’s 50 kgCO2eq. We see these emission factors for different transport modes in the table. But if you want to eat meat, then the choice of meat also matters. They estimated that if the average household substituted their calories from red meat and dairy to chicken, fish or eggs just one day per week they would save 0.3 tCO2eq. In the visualization we see the range of carbon footprints for these foods. Ellis, E. C., Klein Goldewijk, K., Siebert, S., Lightman, D., & Ramankutty, N. (2010). This 25 kgCO2eq figure represents the median emissions from beef production. 5. And there are a number of reasons we wouldn’t want it to: it is not only an important source of income for many, but can also be a key source of nutrition in local settings. Plant-based protein sources – tofu, beans, peas and nuts – have the lowest carbon footprint. December 2012 . You might notice that this is lower than our earlier figure of 35 kgCO2eq – this represents the mean emissions from beef. ‘Barren land’ refers to land cover in which less than one-third of the area has vegetation or other cover; barren land typically has thin soil, sand or rocks and includes deserts, dry salt flats, beaches, sand dunes, and exposed rocks. This gives us a comparison of food miles in tonne-kilometers. How do the water footprints of different food products compare? In developing countries, it is common to site (or locate) industries without environmental impact assessment. That’s why I focus on them here. Good pasture quality is also important: climate has a strong impact on this, but effective management practices can also make a difference; New Zealand, France and the UK are some examples where footprints are often lower. One simple way to compare the means of transport for food is to sum up how many kilometers planes with food freight travel; and compare this to how how many kilometers trains, and ships, and trucks do.But this does not give the complete picture because a boat can carry much more food for a given distance than a truck can. But a lot comes from the large variations in footprint for specific products. They account for 83% of GHG emissions from the average EU diet. There are four key elements to consider when trying to quantify food GHG emissions. IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. And it’s not possible that it would overtake the United States or China; the amount of emissions therefore allocated to food waste would be much smaller than the current gap. If it traveled the same distance by boat, the travel emissions would be only 0.26 kg CO2eq per kg [10,000km * 0.026 kilograms CO2eq per tonne-kilometer for transport by boat / 1000 = 0.26 kg CO2eq per kg]. environment has been analyzed using the Indian fast food industry. The most important insight from this study: there are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). If they replaced it with plant-based alternatives they would save 0.46 tCO2eq. Savannah burning (2% of food emissions) is largely burning of bush land in Africa to allow animal grazing. This is a valid criticism. As the world grapples with the estimated US$940 billion per year in economic losses globally as a result of food loss and waste, these data illustrate the embedded carbon impacts when food … By analysing consumer expenditure data, the researchers estimated that the average American household’s food emissions were around 8 tonnes of CO2eq per year. Environmental impacts of food production Land Use. It’s a major issue in palm plantations and also in some Northern Hemisphere countries. Here, by ‘lowest impact’ I have taken the 10th percentile value. Indeed, energy, whether in the form of electricity, heat, transport or industrial processes, account for the majority – 76% – of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.10 But the global food system, which encompasses production, and post-farm process such as processing, and distribution is also a key contributor to emissions. Apart from the consumption of water, the cultivation of rice also releases methane into the atmosphere which in turn contributes to the increased concentration of greenhouse gases. I have shown previously that what we choose to eat has the largest impact, making a bigger difference than how far our food has traveled, or how much packaging it’s wrapped in. Opening statement • Everyday great amounts of food are produced, processed, transported by the food industry and consumed by us and these activities have direct impact on our health and the environment. But studies also shows that this holds true for actual diets; here we show the results of a study which looked at the footprint of diets across the EU. To capture all GHG emissions from food production researchers therefore express them in kilograms of ‘carbon dioxide equivalents’. As I have shown before, food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The human population in this planet has been growing exponentially over the years. Almost two-thirds of this (15% of food emissions) comes from losses in the supply chain which result from poor storage and handling techniques; lack of refrigeration; and spoilage in transport and processing. Weber, C. L., & Matthews, H. S. (2008). Food transport was responsible for only 6% of emissions, whilst dairy, meat and eggs accounted for 83%.17. Given the broad range of food processing industry sectors and Understand pollution, environmental impacts from food in 6 charts 1. One particularly problematic food … GWP measures the relative warming impact one molecule or unit mass of a greenhouse gas relative to carbon dioxide over a given timescale – usually over 100 years. The increased food production would have been impossible without the intensive agricultural practices adopted over 50 to 70 years ago. As an example: producing 100 grams of protein from peas emits just 0.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq). But since there are large differences between producers, this chart also shows the full spectrum of emissions – from the lowest to highest producers. Creating a Sustainable Food Future—A Menu of Solutions to Feed Nearly 10 Billion People by 2050. In this study, the authors looked at data across more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries.15, In this comparison we look at the total GHG emissions per kilogram of food product. With solutions from both consumers and producers, we have an important opportunity to restore some of this farmland back to forests and natural habitats. There are ten timesmore olive oil from Italy than the country could actually produce. Food wastage is not only the wastage of the end product, i.e. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome and Earthscan, London. The water footprint of rice is much higher than many other millets and grains. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. The water pollution, in turn, contributes to the increased nitrogen and phosphorus deposits in the sea. If we rewind 1000 years, it is estimated that only 4 million square kilometers – less than 4% of the world’s ice-free and non-barren land area was used for farming.In the visualization we see the breakdown of global land area today. This is certainly true when you compare average emissions. Most of the protein we produce is relatively low-impact: 75% of production has a footprint between -3 and 11 kgCO2eq per 100 grams of protein. Land use accounts for 24% of food emissions.Twice as many emissions result from land use for livestock (16%) as for crops for human consumption (8%).12Agricultural expansion results in the conversion of forests, grasslands and other carbon ‘sinks’ into cropland or pasture resulting in carbon dioxide emissions. German, R. N., Thompson, C. E., & Benton, T. G. (2017). This is because only a small fraction comes from transport and packaging and most of our food emissions come from processes on the farm, or from land use change. Many argue that this overlooks the large variation in the footprints of foods across the world. A concept called “drawdown” has focused on the idea of reversing greenhouse gas accumulations in the environment. To make this accurate, the emissions of each country should be slightly lower than their reported values because we should remove the emissions from food waste for each. Not only has demand for all three increased, but they are also strongly interlinked: food production requires water and energy; traditional energy production demands water resources; agriculture provides a potential energy source. The red curve shows the sum of all protein products. Excessive use of fertilisers has resulted in the pollution of water resources. Let’s compare the transport footprint of buying from your local farmer (who turns out to be your neighbor), versus someone in the UK buying beef from Central America (approximately 9000 kilometers away).Transporting food by boat emits 23 grams of CO2eq per tonne of product per kilometer. (2011). If you buy from your local farmer – let’s assume you walk there, and have zero transport emissions – your beef footprint is 59.8 kilograms CO2eq per kilogram [we calculate this as 60kg – 0.2kg]. Therefore food waste as a share of global emissions is [24% * 26 = 6%]. Anthropogenic transformation of the biomes, 1700 to 2000. This is the case regardless of where you are in the world. For producers, understanding and adopting best farm and land management practices can mitigate the highest impacts of production. Emissions are also lower than those from the best cheese and pork (4.5 kgCO2eq); and slightly lower or comparable to those from the lowest-footprint chicken (2.4 kgCO2eq).31. A new report, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, claims to do just that. These chemicals are often difficult for the soil to breakdown. Science, 360(6392), 987-992. Its content will continue to expand in the coming months. This entry can be cited as: Our World in Data is free and accessible for everyone. This extends from land use changes on the left, through to transport and packaging on the right. Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery . The statistics alone give significant cause for concern; as an example, every year: 1. While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg. For example, one tonne of methane would have 34 times the warming impact of tonne of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Whilst supply chain emissions may seem high, at 18%, it’s essential for reducing emissions by preventing food waste. A great new food product idea may work well when consumers have a high income level and the economic outlook is prosperous, but the idea may fail in tougher economic times. Each step in the food industry system — food production, processing, transportation, storage, distribution and marketing — has some impact on the environment and there is much concern about environmental pollution. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 14(5), 381-391. In the current chapter we expose some of the key environmental impacts associated with the food processing industry. You can use all of what you find here for your own research or writing. food production and consumption that have significant impacts on the environment and human health. Discerning consumers of modern food products are now considering ecological and ethical criteria when choosing food products, and in doing so have increased demand for safe, high quality food produced with minimal environmental impact. In the visualization here I show the emissions from wasted food in the context of global greenhouse gas emissions. The relatively labor-intensive nature of food processing leads to strong economic multiplier impacts on local economies. How does this affect their carbon footprint?The average carbon footprint of asparagus is around 0.4 kilograms CO2eq per kilogram. The sum of all gases in their CO2eq form provide a measure of total greenhouse gas emissions. In a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, Christopher Weber and Scott Matthews (2008) investigated the relative climate impact of food miles and food choices in households in the US.18 Their analysis showed that substituting less than one day per week’s worth of calories from beef and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a plant-based alternative reduces GHG emissions more than buying all your food from local sources. Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). How do different food products contribute to eutrophication? But the reality is that very little of our food is. Eutrophication – the pollution of water bodies and ecosystems with excess nutrients – is a major environmental problem. Other studies confirm this distribution of global land: in an analysis of how humans have transformed global land use in recent centuries, Ellis et al. When broken down by food items, dairy, meat and eggs dominate. A 2018 study found that, "Currently, 70 % of the feedstock used in the Dutch feed industry originates from the food processing industry." Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology (SIK) report 857, SIK. Click the link below for active competitions! In most countries, many foods can only be grown and harvested at certain times of the year. All of our charts can be embedded in any site. Farm-stage emissions include processes such as the application of fertilizers – both organic (“manure management”) and synthetic; and enteric fermentation (the production of methane in the stomachs of cattle). These charts are interactive so you can add and remove products using the ‘add food’ button. If I source my beef or lamb from low-impact producers, could they have a lower footprint than plant-based alternatives?The evidence suggests, no: plant-based foods emit fewer greenhouse gases than meat and dairy, regardless of how they are produced. You might think this figure is strongly dependent on where in the world you live, and how far your beef will have to travel, but in the ‘dropdown box’ below I work through an example to show why it doesn’t make a lot of difference. GWP100 values are used to combine greenhouse gases into a single metric of emissions called carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq). Among the nine subsectors within food manufacturing, the most prominent are meats, grain... 2. We actually have plenty. To express all greenhouse gases in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-eq), they are each weighted by their global warming potential (GWP) value. Impacts at one node often depend on activities at other nodes, and improvement options for food industry might … We have previously looked at the comparisons in carbon footprint of food products based on mass: the greenhouse gas emissions from one kilogram of food product. We see this clearly in this visualization when we look at the footprint of the average European diet by source and by food type side-by-side. transport) for each food group.37. The biomass distribution on Earth. The visualization here shows a summary of some of the main global impacts: Food, therefore, lies at the heart of trying to tackle climate change, reducing water stress, pollution, restoring lands back to forests or grasslands, and protecting the world’s wildlife. MacLeod, M., Gerber, P., Mottet, A., Tempio, G., Falcucci, A., Opio, C., Vellinga, T., Henderson, B. So, if you want to reduce the carbon footprint of your diet, avoid air-freighted foods where you can. People across the world are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change: 8-in-10 people see climate change as a major threat to their country.14. This also contributes to the pollution of the soil and to the deterioration of its quality. For much of human history, most of the world’s land was wilderness: forests, grasslands and shrubbery... Water Use. There is rightly a growing awareness that our diet and food choices have a significant impact on our carbon ‘footprint’. Beef from dairy herds tends to have a lower footprint since its footprint is essentially ‘shared’ with dairy co-products. We can look at these comparisons based on mass: the freshwater withdrawals required to produce one kilogram of food product. The world’s highest impact chicken and pork have a footprint of 12 and 14 kgCO2eq. This leaves only 37% for forests; 11% as shrubs and grasslands; 1% as freshwater coverage; and the remaining 1% – a much smaller share than many suspect – is built-up urban area which includes cities, towns, villages, roads and other human infrastructure. Which foods are air-freighted? Our World In Data is a project of the Global Change Data Lab, a registered charity in England and Wales (Charity Number 1186433). 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