Environmental consultancy ADAS is conducting research for Defra into the calculation of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from the food supply chain in order to inform the consultation process towards the development of a Publicly Available Specification (PAS).
Every food product has an impact on the environment via its ‘carbon footprint’. This is determined by calculating the GHG outputs at each stage of the food supply chain – from farm production and its inputs through the manufacturing process to the final product.
Defra and the Carbon Trust are co-sponsoring the BSI to develop a robust, consistent approach for measuring GHGs (a Publicly Available Specification or PAS) which organisations can use to calculate and target where GHG emission reductions can be made for the products that they manufacture, buy or sell.
ADAS has been appointed to lead a two-phase project that will test and apply the approach. Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association, Cranfield University, the EuGeos environmental consultancy and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research are also involved. Firstly, ADAS will test the draft BSI methodology for GHG calculation on a range of commodity foods such as beef, lamb and bread wheat within forms of farming (intensive, extensive and organic). At this stage further proposals for developing the methodology will also be accepted.
In the second phase of work, ADAS will apply the revised measurement system to new products, including chicken, strawberries and also revisit testing on the original commodities to provide increased accuracy. This will provide a range of GHG ‘footprints’ at the pre-farm gate stage.
In parallel CCFRA will be testing the PAS on products through the post-farm gate (manufacturing) stage with a focus on highly processed foods with short shelf life and on foods requiring high temperature processing or refrigeration, in order to capture the complexities of processing and to factor in waste and high energy processes such as baking and freezing.
The total GHG of the final processed products will then be calculated by combining the pre- and post-farm gate figures. Cranfield University and EuGeos will compare these results against the detailed Life Cycle Analysis studies they have previously completed to assess their robustness and hence to comment on the methods in the PAS.
The agreed methodology will be very valuable to the food industry as it can be used to assess not only the green credentials of different food supply chains and different products, but also offer comparison of organic systems with conventional intensive and extensive systems, and for some products comparing UK systems with those in other countries. In particular, it will indicate those parts of the food chain that are GHG ‘hotspots’, to enable GHG reduction strategies to be developed.
ADAS Senior Consultant Jeremy Wiltshire said: “We are very excited about this project – once a PAS is established, it may be applied across a wide range of product categories. It will also provide a tool to predict the environmental impacts of future food production methods, helping the move towards a low-carbon economy.”
He explained: “The process of gathering GHG data is fairly complex – we devise a Process Diagram for each product, charting all GHG outputs. It’s essential that every component is accounted for, from the fuels burned by the tractor, to gases emitted in soil processes and during storage of commodities.”
Phase One of the project will be completed in March this year and Phase Two will be completed by December. This project is part of a suite of three currently running that are designed to test and inform the PAS as it develops, covering the stages from food production, manufacturing and retailing through to how the consumer stores, prepares and consumes food at home. The research will identify possible limitations of the BSI-PAS method and how these might be
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