Free-range Egg Production Uses 20 Per Cent More Energy

UK - A new report recommends focusing on feed, waste and water use to reduce the environmental impact of egg production. Free-range systems use around 20 per cent more energy than other methods of production.
calendar icon 13 August 2013
clock icon 3 minute read

WRAP has published its 'hotspot data' for 50 grocery products, including eggs, showing areas where attention should be focused in terms of reducing environmental impacts.

WRAP was set up in 2000 to help recycling take-off in the UK and to create a market for recycled materials.

The latest information, published as part of the Product Sustainability Forum - for which WRAP provides the secretariat - is intended to enable suppliers and retailers to access data more easily on the environmental impact of various groceries.

The 'hotspot' areas considered in the report are: waste, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water impact, energy use and material risk.

Each of these are examined within the context of agriculture, packaging, processing, retail and consumer.

Looking at egg production specifically, the following aspects are identified as hotspots:

  • Environment - Feed (e.g. wheat, soybean) growing, processing and refinement accounts for more than half of lifecycle GHG emissions.
  • Waste - About 77,000 tonnes of eggs are wasted in UK homes every year, worth an estimated £75 million. Globally, egg waste across supply chain between 12 and 20 per cent through breakage, cracks and removal of discoloured or blood flecked. Boxes of mixed source eggs introduced to limit discard of multipack eggs containing some breakages due to UK regulations.
  • Water - Water used to produce feedstock and direct intake by egg-layer chickens is mainly green water (i.e. rainwater); the impact depends on location.

Overall, WRAP finds that there is a good understanding of the key issues relating to egg production although it states that no water life cycle study is available.

In terms of targeting efforts to reduce the environmental impact od egg production, the report finds that, other than the high levels of waste in the supply chain, the main environmental issues are attributed to agricultural production – both on farm and pre-farm, e.g. manufacture of feeds and manure management.

Most of life cycle energy use during feed production, it says. The main within-farm energy use include ventilation and lighting, followed by automatic feeding and heating.

WRAP highlights that free-range production increases energy use by up to 20 per cent compared with all housed systems. This is mainly due to higher Feed Conversion Ratios (FCR) for free-range birds.

Around 20 per cent of GHG production occurs during cooking.

Further Reading

You can view the full report from WRAP by clicking here.

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