Knowledge for better food systems

FAO report: Greenhouse emissions from the dairy sector: a life cycle assessment

The FAO has published a life cycle assessment of the global dairy sector. The assessment is part of an ongoing research programme to assess the environmental implications of animal food chains, and to analyse and recommend improvement options. The immediate next step for the FAO is to use a similar approach to quantify the GHG emissions associated with specialised beef cattle and other major livestock species including buffalo, poultry, small ruminants and pigs. The LCA takes into account the following: From cradle to farm gate
The FAO has published a life cycle assessment of the global dairy sector. The assessment is part of an ongoing research programme to assess the environmental implications of animal food chains, and to analyse and recommend improvement options. The immediate next step for the FAO is to use a similar approach to quantify the GHG emissions associated with specialised beef cattle and other major livestock species including buffalo, poultry, small ruminants and pigs. The LCA takes into account the following: From cradle to farm gate
  • Processes for producing grass, feed crops, crop residues, by- products, and concentrates, including:
    • production of N fertilizer (CO2);
    • application of manure and chemical fertilizers to crops, accounting for both direct and indirect emissions (N2O);
    • deposition of manure and urine on pasture crops, accounting for both direct and indirect emissions (N2O);
    • energy used for fertilization, field operations, drying, processing of feed crops and fodder (CO2);
    • processing of crops into by-products and concentrates;
    • transport of feed from the production site to the feeding site;
    • changes in carbon stocks as a result of land use change (mostly from deforestation) in the previous 20 years (IPCC, 2006); 
    • and nitrogen (N) losses related to changes in carbon stocks (N2O).
  • Enteric fermentation by ruminants (CH4).
  • Direct and indirect emissions from manure storage (CH4 and N2O)
From farm gate to retail point 
  • Transport of milk and animals to dairies and slaughterhouses.
  • Processing of raw milk into commodities such as cooled milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter, and milk powder.
  • Production of packaging.
  • Refrigeration (energy and leakage of refrigerants).
  • Transport of processed products to the retail point.

The assessment does not include GHG emissions related to:
  • land use under constant management practices;
  • capital goods such as farm equipment and infrastructure;
  • on-farm milking and cooling;
  • production of cleaning agents, antibiotics and pharmaceuticals; and
  • disposal of packaging.
You can download the report here.
 

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