Carbon Footprint Assessment and Calculation Tool Development for the Poultry Industry

University of Georgia scientists have tested a computer-based spreadsheet calculation tool, which they found to be user-friendly and easily accessible to poultry producers. As well as allowing a grower to assess the carbon footprint of their farm, it can offer suggestions for improvements to the farm operation.
calendar icon 3 March 2015
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The poultry industry is a major part of the agricultural industry in the United States, and an awareness of the carbon footprint of the industry is important for future growth and development.

Principal investigator, Dr Claudia S. Dunkley of the University of Georgia and colleagues there explain that changes in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be achieved only if the industry knows the levels of GHG emissions contributed as a result of poultry production. While several life-cycle assessments have been completed for the production of poultry meat, there is no industry specific carbon footprint calculation tool available for the production phase of the poultry industry, Since the poultry farmer only has control over the activities that take place on his farm, he can only make reductions of emissions at the farm-gate level.

The specific objectives of this study, sponsored by the US Poultry & Egg Association, were:

  • to develop a computer-based, user-friendly calculation tool to assess GHG emissions from poultry farms, and
  • to identify abatement strategies in on-farm management practices to reduce the footprint on farms.

The calculation tool was developed and used to estimate the emissions from 30 test farms from three poultry companies in three different regions in Georgia. The research included an assessment of the carbon footprint of test farms under industry management standards with focus placed on management practices and farm-expense data, particularly with regard to expenditures for energy-intensive inputs such as electricity and fuel, which are the largest contributors to GHG emissions for poultry farms. This was used to identify potential areas of change.

The researchers observed that the major sources of GHG that are emitted on poultry production farms were from gas use and manure management.

Based on these observations, the tool is equipped to recommend improvements to the farm that will in turn show the potential reductions in GHG emissions and cost savings if recommended improvements are implemented.

Energy production is the greatest emitter of GHG in the US, the researchers found and on the poultry farm, energy use is also the greatest emitter of GHG.

The results from this research can impact the poultry industry, as it will now allow poultry producers to calculate and monitor the GHG emissions from their own farm.

The calculation tool is a computer-based, user-friendly spreadsheet tool that is easily accessible to poultry producers.

At the end of the calculations, the grower will be able to print an inventory for recordkeeping and can use this inventory to track the changes of their emissions from year to year. They will also be able to apply the improvements in the recommendation section of the tool and see the projected effect these changes will have on the farm emissions and their energy bill.

Growers are concerned about their profit margin, and with this poultry carbon footprint tool, each producer will be able to easily calculate the monetary benefits of making adjustments to their operations.

March 2015

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