Scientific Publications

Environmental impacts of animal-based food supply chains with market characteristics

Wenhao Chen, Sepideh Jafarzadeh, Maitri Thakur, Guðrún Ólafsdóttir, Shraddha Mehta, Sigurdur Bogason, Nicholas M. Holden (2021) Environmental impacts of animal-based food supply chains with market characteristics, Science of The Total Environment, 783, 147077

Animal-based food supply chains lead to significant environmental impacts, which can be influenced by production systems, distribution networks and consumption patterns. To develop strategy aimed at reducing the environmental impact of animal-based food supply chains, the common environmental hotspots among different types of food, the role of transport logistics and the consequence of end market need to be better understood. Life cycle assessment was adopted to model three types of animal-based food chains (beef, butter and salmon), with specific technologies, high spatial-resolution logistics and typical consumption patterns for three markets: local, regional (intra-European) and international. The results confirmed that the farm production stage usually had the greatest environmental impact, except when air transport was used for distribution. Potentially, the role of end market also can significantly influence the environmental impacts. To understand more, three improvement options were examined in detail with regard to hotspots for climate change: novel feed ingredients (farm production stage), sustainable aviation fuel (transport and logistics stage) and reduction of wasted food (consumption and end of life stage). Significant reduction was achieved in the salmon system by sustainable aviation fuel (64%) and novel feed (15%). Minimising food waste drove the greatest reduction in the beef supply chain (23%) and the international butter supply chain can reduce 50% of GHG mission by adopting sustainable aviation fuel. Combined interventions could reduce GHG emission of animal-based food supply chains by 15% to 82%, depending on market, transport and food waste behaviour. The results show that eco-efficiency information of animal-based foods should include the full supply chain. The effective mitigation strategy to achieve the greatest reduction should not only consider the impacts on-farm, but also detail of the downstream impacts, such as food distribution network and consumption patterns.