There is increasing market interest in understanding the contribution that products and services make to climate change. In response, Defra and the Carbon Trust are currently working with the British Standards Institution (BSI) to develop a methodology that will enable organisations to understand the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the products that they manufacture, buy or sell. With this knowledge, the GHG performance of these products can be more effectively improved.
The BSI is developing a Publicly Available Standard (PAS) that will provide an agreed, accurate and consistent approach to measuring GHG emissions associated with products and services. The PAS will also provide a tool to explore the impacts of potential future scenarios for food production and consumption, including combinations of different systems of farming, food processing and distribution.
Research aims: This research will test an early version of the methodology and indicate the relative merits of different potential food supply systems for more or less highly processed food products. The research will also identify the limitations of the BSI method and how these might be overcome, and identify gaps in the data required to apply the method.
The research will be conducted in two phases, testing the draft BSI method and then using the final BSI method to indicate relative merits of different potential food supply systems.
Contractors: ADAS UK Ltd and IGER will do the pre-farm gate testing and CCFRA will do the food manufacturing testing. Cranfield University will check and monitor the BSI method outputs and provide a link between the two projects (pre and post farm gate). The Manchester Business School will give additional advice.
Phase 1: The research will cover all major stages of the food chain from pre farm gate to manufacturing, but not including distribution or retail stages. The PAS specifies the methodology to be used, including references to ISO standards for GHG emissions. If there are difficulties with applying the methodology as described in the PAS the project will make suggestions for alternative methods.
Pre-farm gate: The methodology will be tested using published data (or where not available, assumed values) for inputs and outputs and thus represent national averages rather than specific farms. The testing will cover a range of farming systems, including intensive, extensive and organic, to highlight any methodological issues. The following products have been selected for initial testing: beef, lamb, pork, milk, potatoes, bread wheat and coffee beans.
In order to assess the validity of the results, the GHG performance for each commodity calculated using the BSI method will be compared with those from a previous study carried out by Cranfield University (Defra code IS0205, “Determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities”).
Food manufacturing: The testing will be based on case study material from actual food processing operations, with a focus on highly processed foods with short shelf life, and on foods requiring high temperature processing and/or refrigeration. This is to capture the complexities of processing and to factor in waste and high energy processes such as baking and freezing. To enable joining up of whole food chains the processed foods may include a number of meat and dairy based highly processed or complex products, including cheese. Bread is another category representing baked foods based on cereals. Instant coffee will be included as a product based on an overseas commodity.
Phase 2 : Phase 2 will lead to an assessment of the limitations of the BSI method and how these might be overcome by further work or by modifications to the method.
The research will (i) provide Defra with indicators of the relative merits of different potential food supply systems and (ii) provide GHG emissions data for different food products up to and including the manufacturing stage. These data will also give an indication of those parts of the supply chain that have particularly high GHG emissions.
A further draft of the PAS will be used to assess more precisely the GHG impacts of the original products from phase 1. In addition to those commodities assessed in phase 1, additional commodities being addressed within a current project managed by AEA/Cranfield will be included (Defra code FO0103, “Comparative life-cycle assessment of food commodities procured for UK consumption through a diversity of supply chains”), namely beef, lamb, chicken, potatoes, strawberries, apples, tomatoes, tea, sugar (from cane), chocolate and an imported fruit or vegetable (e.g. oranges). This will enable a direct comparison between detailed life cycle analyses and application of the BSI standard.