Steps taken to combat industry emissions

Environmental consultancy ADAS is working with Defra and the Carbon Trust to monitor the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions created by the food supply chain.

A food's 'carbon footprint' is calculated by measuring the GHG outputs at each stage of the food supply chain - from farm production through the manufacturing process to the final product.

Defra and the Carbon Trust are currently working with the British Standards Institution (BSI) to develop a robust, consistent approach for measuring GHGs, which organisations can use to calculate and reduce the emissions of the products that they manufacture, buy or sell.

ADAS has been appointed to lead a two-phase project that will test and apply the approach. Firstly, ADAS will test the draft BSI methodology for GHG measurement on a range of commodity foods, including beef, lamb, and bread wheat. Proposals will be put forward for further development of the methodology.

In the second phase of work, ADAS will apply the newly modified and improved measurement system to a new range of products, including chicken meat and strawberries, and also revisit testing on the original commodities to provide increased accuracy. This will provide a range of GHG 'footprints' at the pre-farmgate stage.

The Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association (CCFRA) is testing footprints at the post-farmgate (manufacturing) stage and adding these together, so the total GHG of the final processed products can be calculated.

The results will be very valuable to the food industry, as they can be used to assess not only the green credentials of different food supply chains and different products, but also the relative efficiency of organic over conventional farming and self-sufficiency over importation. In particular, they will provide an indication of those parts of the food chain that are GHG 'hotspots', to enable carbon reduction strategies to be developed.

Jeremy Wiltshire, ADAS senior consultant, said: "We are very excited about this project - once a publicly available specification (PAS) is established, it may be applied across a wide range of product categories. It will also provide a tool to predict the environmental impacts of future food production methods, helping the move towards a low-carbon economy.

"The process of gathering GHG data is fairly complex - we devise a process diagram for each product, charting all GHG outputs. It's essential that every component is accounted for, from the fuels burned by the tractor, to gases emitted in soil processes and during storage of commodities."

Phase One of the project will be completed in March this year and Phase Two will be completed by December.