SGS EcoDesign Team Provides Sustainability Expertise as Carbon Footprint of Meat Sector Comes Into Question

Top Quote As media and scientific pressure increases on the meat industry to improve sustainability, SGS expertise in sustainability is available to industry at every step of the supply chain. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) October 01, 2010 - The market for lower carbon footprint food-related goods is growing quickly. Governments are setting new targets for the food industry, and consumers and retailers are becoming more concerned about choosing environmentally friendly products. Producers in the food industry who work immediately to improve the environmental credentials of their products will be able to market this advantage to their business customers, moving them ahead of their competition.

    Food Production and Climate Change

    Food is now a central focus in discussions of climate change. As an essential consumer product, the efficiency of food production is a key concern. Issues related to global agricultural supply chains including food processing, food miles and wastes related to food production all play a role in the environmental impact of the industry. For example, in the UK 8% of consumption related emissions stem from agriculture alone, forming a significant fraction of the 19% of general consumption related emissions arising from food consumption. This illustrates the environmental significance of agriculture as a stage in the food supply chain. More generally, both local food production and importation must be considered when looking at carbon footprints related to food consumption. On this basis, over 30% of the EU's Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions arise from food production and consumption, according to one EU study.

    Sources for Emissions from Agriculture

    It is estimated that 17-32% of human produced GHG emissions arise as the result of agriculture. While there are significant uncertainties about the final figure, the sources of these emissions are well understood. For example, in some sectors of the industry, especially the poultry sector, feed production is a major contributor. A recent SGS study has shown that significant contribution to global emissions comes through land conversion for feed production. Other forms of land conversion are also significant, with carbon levels changing in response to both conversion of savannah to arable land and as a result of deforestation.

    The most significant GHG contributors however come through farming emissions of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). These gases have a significant impact on global warming despite existing in relatively lower concentrations in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The key causes of farming emissions of nitrous oxide are soil chemical processes and manure. Methane is released primarily through the livestock industry, as this gas is emitted as a result of digestive processes in cattle and sheep.

    Dairy, Meat Sectors Pursue Technological Solutions

    Important areas for the improvement of carbon footprints in business can be identified through a supply chain or life cycle carbon footprint study. Such a study can provide a focus for food brands as well as the retail and hospitality sector, aiding work with suppliers. Implementation of these improvements can ultimately help to reduce costs through the use of alternative energy systems. Improvements can also help prepare for future regulation, as well as improving market share and competitive advantage by sending a clear signal about a company's commitment to eco-efficiency and environmental sustainability.

    The diagram shows the range of sustainable production techniques and environmental improvements currently being implemented in the meat industry. The issue of energy efficiency is of dual importance, as it not only impacts on the environment, but also on energy security, which is in itself becoming an increasingly important business issue.

    Sustainability experts from the SGS Ecodesign team can help you with carbon footprinting throughout the supply chain.

    Contact details:
    SGS Consumer Testing Services
    Bethany Murray
    Sustainability Consultant, SGS UK
    Saunders House, 52-53 The Mall, Ealing, London, W5 3TA, UK
    +44 203 008 7876

    E-mail address: ( @ ) sgs dot com

    The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With 59,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.

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