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Comparative life-cycle assessment of food commodities procured for UK consumption through a diversity of supply chains - FO0103

Description
This project will evaluate the comparative life cycle burdens of alternative food supply chains for seven indicator foodstuffs, bought by UK consumers. The study will evaluate these seven commodities with the alternative country of origin given in brackets: Tomatoes (Spain); Strawberries (Spain); Apples (New Zealand); Potatoes (Egypt); Poultry and beef (Brazil) and Lamb (New Zealand). In each case, one of the alternative means of production requires either a substantial energy input for UK production or refrigerated transport, or may suffer substantial wastage during transport or storage. Each commodity is regarded as an indicator for a range of similar crops: salads; top fruit; soft fruit; field vegetables; meat reared indoors under intensive conditions; meat reared outdoors under extensive conditions.

The production and delivery of these products from different sources needs to be analysed to determine if there are modes or locations of production that offer significant reductions in environmental burdens over others. For example, energy demand from Mediterranean grown tomatoes is likely to be less than from heated greenhouses in Britain. Conversely, increased production of field-grown salads and vegetables in the Mediterranean area may deplete water supplies, increase soil salinization and decrease water quality through eutrophication and pesticide contamination and causes a loss of natural habitat.

The Cranfield University team has analysed the environmental burdens of producing commodities up to the farm gate in Britain, using the method of environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) in the Defra-funded project IS0205. Environmental burdens include energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, the potential for eutrophication and land use. The same approach will be used for farm production in this study to overseas production. The analysis will be extended through the whole supply chain (packaging, processing, transport, cooling and storage) up to the point where further progress is identical. For most commodities, this is the retail distribution centre (RDC). The scope of analysis will also be extended to address the following wider eco-services: loss of habitat, potential loss of biodiversity, loss of soil C, soil salinization, limits to water supply and damage to water resources.

Objective
The overall objective of this project is to produce a comparative life-cycle inventory (LCI) of the environmental burdens and resource use arising from the production of six key food commodities for which the UK-based and imported production and supply chains are significantly different. The specific objectives are listed below.

O1. Agree the scope of study with Defra
O2. Produce comparative inventories for commodity production to the farm gate where they do not already exist in the Cranfield LCA analyses
O3. Produce comparative inventories for post farm gate commodity storage, processing and transport.
O4. Estimate comparative effects on wider eco-services.
O5. Compare whole chains for commodities.
O6. Draw interim conclusions and report these to Defra.
O7. Publicise the work.
O8. Draw final conclusions and report these and the whole project to Defra.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Food Commodities Procured for UK Consumption through a Diversity of Supply Chains   (255k)
• Final Report - Annex : Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Food Commodities Procured for UK Consumption through a Diversity of Supply Chains   (2489k)
• Final Report - Annex : Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Food Commodities Procured for UK Consumption through a Diversity of Supply Chains   (3634k)
• Final Report - Annex : Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Food Commodities Procured for UK Consumption through a Diversity of Supply Chains   (1183k)
• Final Report - Annex : Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Food Commodities Procured for UK Consumption through a Diversity of Supply Chains   (1131k)
• Final Report - Annex : Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Food Commodities Procured for UK Consumption through a Diversity of Supply Chains - appendix 1   (1080k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2007

To: 2008

Cost: £161,750
Contractor / Funded Organisations
AEA Technology
Keywords
Environmental Performance              
Food and Drink              
Food Chain              
Food Industry Sustainability Strategy              
Food manufacturing industry              
Fields of Study
Resource Efficient and Resilient Food Chain