Danish pork production – an environmental assessment

Dalgaard R, Halberg N, Hermansen J E (2007)

Publication info

DJF Animal Science NO. 82, November 2007


The primary aim of this report is to present data for the environmental profile of pork and to identify the most polluting parts in the product chain of Danish pork by use of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology. The functional unit was ‘1 kg of Danish pork (carcass weight) delivered at the Port of Harwich’, and the environmental impact categories considered were global warming, eutrophication, acidification and photochemical smog. The global warming potential was 3.6 kg CO2 equivalents per functional unit, which corresponds to the emissions from a 10 km drive in a typical passenger car.

It was found, that the environmental ‘hot spots’ in the production chain of Danish pork occur in the stages before the pigs’ arrival at the slaughterhouse. The highest contributions to global warming, eutrophication and acidification arise from production of feed and handling of manure in the pig housing and under storage. However, the manure/slurry applied to the fields also made a significant contribution to eutrophication potential. The transport of the pork to the Port of Harwich was not an environmental hot spot and contributed less than 1% of the total amount of greenhouse gasses emitted during the production. This result highlights, that ‘Food miles’ are a misleading environmental indicator.

The environmental profile of pork established was based on data from 2005, and it was found, that the environmental impact (global warming, eutrophication and acidification potentials) has been reduced since 1995. These environmental improvements were mainly obtained by lower feed (and protein) consumption and improved handling of manure/slurry. A potential exist for improving the environmental profile further. In particular, the greenhouse gas emission per kg pork can be reduced, if the manure/slurry is anaerobically digested, and the biogas is used for heat and power production.

The environmental impact of Danish pork was compared with the environmental impact of British and Dutch pork. This comparison showed, that the global warming potentials were equal, whereas the eutrophication and acidification potential was highest for British pork. Dutch pork had slightly lower eutrophication and acidification potential compared to that of Danish pork.

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