Environmental Improvement Potentials of Meat and Dairy Products

This project applies several novel elements at the same time, such as hybrid LCA, consequential modelling, rebound effects, social impacts, life cycle costs, analysis of synergies and dysergies, impact assessment with full monetarisation, temporal discounting, and policy feasibility assessment.

The client

EU Commission (DG-JRC) – European Union

Our role

This project was led by 2.-0 LCA consultants with the University of Aarhus, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences as sub-contractor. Project completed November 2007.

Meat and Dairy in EU-27

The study presents a first systematic overview of the environmental impacts from the life cycle of meat and dairy products consumed in the EU-27, covering the full food chain, taking into account the entire value chain (life cycle) of these products. It provides a comprehensive analysis of the potentials for reducing the environmental impacts, focusing on options with proven technological feasibility and short to medium-term implementation horizon. Finally, it assesses the socioeconomic impacts of the improvement options, their relations to autonomous developments and current policies, and their feasibility of implementation. Targets and measures for the implementation of the improvements are suggested.

From a methodological perspective, the project was novel in several respects:

  • by developing and applying a hybrid database for EU-27, specifically for this project, combining the completeness of ‘top-down’ input-output matrices, based on national accounting statistics and national emission statistics (known as NAMEA matrices) with the detailed modelling of ‘bottom-up’ processes from process-based life cycle assessments;
  • by identifying hotspots with an attributional approach but applying consequential modelling for analysing the improvement options;
  • by including an analysis of rebound effects, synergies and dysergies, and a feasibility assessment;
  • by developing and applying a new impact assessment method with full monetarisation: Stepwise2006
  • by including an assessment of social impacts, life cycle costs and considerations on temporal discounting.

The study resulted in a report for the The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) and as such was an important scientific contribution to the European Commission’s Integrated Product Policy framework. The report shows that meat and dairy products contribute on average 24% to the environmental impacts from the total final consumption in EU-27, while constituting only 6% of the economic value. The main improvement options were identified in agricultural production, in food management by households (avoidance of food wastage), and related to power savings. When all environmental improvement potentials are taken together, the aggregated environmental impacts (external costs) of meat and dairy products may be reduced by about 20%.