Paths to a sustainable food sector: integrated design and LCA of future food supply chains: the case of pork production in Sweden
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To describe a more sustainable food sector, a supply chain approach is needed. Changing a supply chain inevitably means that various attributes of the product and its system will change. This project assumed this challenge and delivered detailed descriptions, life cycle assessment (LCA) evaluations, and consequence assessments of the supply chains of six commodities, i.e., milk, cheese, beef, pork, chicken, and bread, from a Swedish region. This paper presents results for the pork supply chain.
In the project setup, experts on production along supply chains designed three scenarios for environmentally improved systems. These scenarios, i.e., the ecosystem, plant nutrients, and climate scenarios, were intended to address different clusters of environmental goals. The next step was to challenge these scenarios by considering their possible consequences for products and systems from the food safety, sensory quality, animal welfare, consumer appreciation, and (for primary production only) cost perspectives. This led to changes in production system design to prevent negative consequences. The final supply chains were quantified using LCA and were again assessed from the three perspectives.
Results and discussion
The scenario design approach worked well, thoroughly and credibly describing the production systems. Assessment of consequences bolstered the credibility and quality of the systems and results. The LCA of pig production and smoked ham identified large potentials for improvement by implementing available knowledge: global warming potential (GWP) could be reduced 21–54 % and marine eutrophication by 14–45 %. The main reason for these improvements was improved productivity (approaching the best producers’ current performance), though dedicated measures were also important, resulting in increased nitrogen efficiency, more varied crop rotations for crop production and better production management, and improved animal health and manure management for animal production. Reduced post-farm wastage contributed as did reduced emissions from fertilizer production.
The working approach applied was successful in integrating LCA research with food system production expertise to deliver results relevant to supply chain decision-makers. The consequence assessments brought considerable value to the project, giving its results greater credibility. By introducing constraints in the form of “no negative consequences and no increased costs,” the work was “guided” so that the scenario design avoided being hampered by too many opportunities.
KeywordsConsequence assessment Environment Food system scenarios Future food production LCA Sustainable food chains
This project was part of TvärLivs, a multidisciplinary research program for food funded by Vinnova (the Swedish Innovation Agency), the Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF), the Swedish Food Federation, the Swedish Retail Federation, and Västra Götaland Region. We also acknowledge the anonymous reviewers’ comments, which contributed to the final text.
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