Scientific report concludes frozen CO2 output lower than chilled

Frozen food is more environmentally friendly than intensively chilled food, according to a new report on carbon emissions.

Through assessing a range of carbon emissions from slaughter to consumption, researchers discovered that a frozen meal for a family of four had less CO2 than a chilled version did.

The results then led researchers to believe that freezing food could contribute towards reducing the CO2 output of the food industry in the future.

Research was carried out by Refrigeration Developments and Testing and compiled into a report called ‘Carbon Emissions from Chilled and Frozen Cold Chains’. Scientists conducting the research then calculated the CO2 equivalent (CO2e) for an average Sunday roast meal for four people. The analysis took into account energy sources needed to produce the various components of the meal, such as transport, home storage and processing.

After considering all emission sources, researchers calculated that a chilled meal for four people produced 6.546kg in CO2e compared to a frozen meal that produced just 6.329 CO2e. Across all tested food types, researchers discovered only one that had lower CO2e output than its chilled counterpart.
Author of the report and fellow of the Institute of Refrigeration Judith Evans explained that the report went some way into “debunking” the commonly held assumption that producing, storing and consuming frozen food is more energy intensive than chilled products.

Evans added: “A thorough and rigorous review of the scientific evidence found, within the boundaries considered, frozen to be less CO2 intensive – especially when considering carbon dioxide produced from waste.”

The report was commissioned by the British Frozen Foods Federation, supporting the WRAP campaign ‘Love Food Hate Waste’, which highlights freezers as a great way for consumers to make the most of food.