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Carbon footprints of organic dairying in six European countries—real farm data analysis


Dairy farming is the largest agricultural contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. In this study, the carbon footprint of organic dairying was evaluated by means of a life cycle assessment, based on real farm data from six European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Italy and United Kingdom. A total of 34 farms were analysed. The assessment was carried out using an attributional approach with system boundaries from cradle to farm gate. In relation to dairy production, a functional unit of 1 kg of energy corrected milk was used. The results gave an average of 1.32 kg CO2 equivalents per kilogramme of energy-corrected milk with standard deviation of 0.22, which is consistent with recent studies. The main contributor to this is enteric fermentation from producing animals, resulting in 45 % of total GHG emissions, which is also consistent with previous studies.

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Funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/ 2007–2013) was received for the research leading to these results, under grant agreement no. FP7-266367 (SOLID-Sustainable Organic and Low Input Dairying). For further details, see

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Correspondence to Sanna Hietala.

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Hietala, S., Smith, L., Knudsen, M.T. et al. Carbon footprints of organic dairying in six European countries—real farm data analysis. Org. Agr. 5, 91–100 (2015).

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  • Organic milk
  • Dairy
  • Carbon footprint
  • GHG
  • LCA