Welcome to this learning resource on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in the pork chain. When addressing the sustainability of meat production, environmental impact is a major concern. In general, meat has higher environmental costs than proportionally similar amounts of, for example, bread or vegetables. However, this also varies according to the different types of meat. To give an example, 1 kg of beef or lamb has considerably higher CO2 costs than 1 kg of pork, which is comparable in CO2 costs to chicken meat. In order to quantify the environmental impact of different types of food, a proper evaluation tool is needed. LCA is such a tool; it evaluates all stages in the life of a product, in terms of the environmental impact of each stage, from feed production, housing of pigs and manure handling, to slaughter, meat processing, distribution etc. Consequently LCA is a tool for identifying 'hot spots' in the food chain and it gives producers and food companies an opportunity to identify options to mitigate these hot spots and thereby improve the environmental profile of their products.
In this learning resource LCA is considered in relation to the pork production chain. First there is discussion of some general aspects of food production in relation to environmental issues, giving examples of emissions, and applying impact categories for 'global warming', 'acidification' and 'eutrophication'. This is explained by showing how different emissions are calculated, using equivalent factors for each impact category, and describing the contribution of different types of foods to global warming. To illustrate the concept, an example is then presented from the production chain for Danish pork, including results that show which parts of the pork chain make the highest contribution to the carbon footprint. Important terms used in LCA are listed and the process of carrying out an LCA is briefly explained.
At the end of the learning resource four different pig production systems are illustrated by video clips. Using figures from these systems, you have the opportunity to visualise and compare the environmental impact of these systems. Throughout the learning resource interactive exercises are used to enable you to understand the environmental impact of food production and the use of LCA as a tool.