Comparison of the Environmental Footprint of the US Egg Industry in 1960 and 201024 February 2014
Using Life Cycle Assessment, researchers have found that the environmental footprint of US egg production in 2010 is 65 per cent lower in acidifying emissions, 71 per cent lower in eutrophication emissions, 71 per cent lower in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 31 per cent lower in cumulative energy demand than in 1960, on the basis of a unit weight of eggs produced.
The US egg industry has evolved considerably over recent decades by incorporating new technologies and production practices, according to Nathan Pelletier of Global Ecologic Environmental Consulting and Management Services in Vernon, Canada.
In a paper in Poultry Science, he and co-authors from the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University in the US explain that to date, there has been no comprehensive assessment of the resource demand and environmental effects of these changes.
Their study quantifies the environmental footprint of egg production supply chains in the United States for 2010 compared with 1960 using life cycle assessment (LCA).
The analysis considers changes in both foreground (e.g. hen production performance) and background (e.g. efficiencies of energy provision, fertiliser production, production of feed inputs and transport modes) system variables.
The results revealed that feed efficiency, feed composition and manure management are the three primary factors that determine the environmental impacts of US egg production.
Further research and improvements in these areas will aid in continual reduction of the environmental footprint of the US egg industry over time.
Per kilogram of eggs produced, the environmental footprint for 2010 is 65 per cent lower in acidifying emissions, 71 per cent lower in eutrophying emissions, 71 per cent lower in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 31 per cent lower in cumulative energy demand than in 1960.
Table egg production was 30 per cent higher in 2010; however, the total environmental footprint was 54 per cent lower in acidifying emissions, 63 per cent lower in eutrophying emissions, 63 per cent lower in GHG emissions and 13 per cent lower in cumulative energy demand than in 1960.
Pelletier and co-authors calculated that the reductions in the environmental footprint over the 50-year interval considered can be attributed to the following:
- 27 to 30 per cent due to improved efficiencies of background systems, which outweighed the declining energy return on energy invested for primary energy sources
- 30 to 44 per cent due to changes in feed composition and
- 28 to 43 per cent due to improved bird performance.
Pelletier N., M. Ibarburu and H. Xin. 2014. Comparison of the environmental footprint of the egg industry in the United States in 1960 and 2010. Poultry Science. 93(2):241-255. doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03390
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