Title: Environmental impact of food consumption in Europe
Citation: JOURNAL OF CLEANER PRODUCTION vol. 140 no. part 2 p. 753-765
Publication Year: 2017
JRC N°: JRC99443
ISSN: 0959-6526
URI: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652616307570
DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.06.080
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Food consumption is amongst the main drivers of environmental impacts. On one hand, there is the need of fulfil a fundamental human need related to nutrition and on the other hand this is posing critical threats to the environment. In order to assess the impact associated to food consumption, a LCA based methodology has been applied to a basket of products, selected as representative of EU consumption. Firstly, a food basket of products has been identified in order to represent the average food and beverage consumption in Europe, reflecting relative importance of the products in terms of mass and economic value. The products in the basket are: pig meat, beef, poultry, milk, cheese, butter, bread, sugar, sunflower oil, olive oil, potatoes, oranges, apples, mineral water, roasted coffee, beer, pre-prepared dishes. For each product in the basket, an inventory model has been developed, highly disaggregated and based on a modular approach, built on statistical data. The environmental impact of the average food consumption of a European citizen has been characterised using ILCD methodology for the life cycle impact assessment. The overall results indicate that in the majority of the impact categories the most burdening consumed foods are meat products (beef, pork and poultry) and dairy products (cheese, milk and butter). The agricultural phase is the most impacting lifecycle stage of the basket food, due to the contribution of agronomic and zoo-technical activities. Food processing and logistics follow in importance, due to their energy intensity and the related emissions to atmosphere, occurring during the production of heat, steam and electricity and during transport. Regarding the end of life, human excretion and wastewater treatments are posing burdens related to euthrophying substances which are higher than that of the agriculture, transports and processing. Moreover, food losses which occur during the whole life cycle, during agricultural/industrial phases and at home, in terms of food waste, have to also be taken in consideration, since they can contribute up to 60% of the initial weight of the food. The results of the study go beyond the assessment of possible impacts associated to food consumption. In fact, the overall methodology may represent a baseline for testing eco-innovation scenarios for impact reduction as well as for setting targets
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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