Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

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Life Cycle Assessment looks at all of the environmental impacts of a product from conception to end use. For pigs this might be from serving a sow, through production to:

  • Farm Gate
  • Pork or bacon arriving on the supermarket shelf taking into account the energy consumed and waste produced along the way such as slurry and packaging
  • End use (consumption) and ultimate waste disposal

Environmental impacts include pollution and transport issues. The following measures are used to make comparisons of the impact:

Global warming – greenhouse effect caused by emissions of greenhouse gases

Eutrophication  – oxygen depletion of water due to nutrient enrichment, principally from Nitrogen in fertilisers

Acidification  – emissions causing extremes of pH in habitats eg acid rain

Abiotics  – resource depletion

These are quantified and used to identify possible improvements or changes in production patterns or methods.

LCA is a rapidly developing science and methodologies often do not compare like with like. Numbers are often quoted, but these must be viewed with caution because data from different sources are not truly comparable.

AHDB Pork's interest in the environmental burdens of pig meat production goes back a number of years including work done with Cranfield University for DEFRA determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities (ISO205)

This project resulted in the production of a computer model that assessed the impact of 10 important agricultural commodities, including pig meat.  The model was further refined and updated in 2007, to incorporate changes to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) methodology . 

The Food Climate Research Network is a UK research council-funded initiative. Its aim is to understand better how the food system contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and to research and promote ways of reducing them.