Environmental hotspot identification of organic egg production

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


According to the ecological principle of IFOAM2 "organic farming should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them". Experts on organic egg production, however, mention three environmental problems: 1) long transport distances of feed, hens and eggs (Meeusen et al., 2003); 2) a high level of ammonia emission from the hen house (Groenestein et al., 2005) and 3) a high load of nitrogen and phosphorus in the outdoor run, resulting in harmful losses to the environment, such as leaching of nitrate and emission of ammonia and nitrous oxide (Aarnink et al., 2006). Life Cycle Assesment (LCA) was used to quantify the relative importance of these problems, identify hotspots and asses the environmental impact of the organic egg production chain. Attributional LCA and a functional unit of one kg organic egg was chosen based on the aim of hotspot identification. Five environmental impact categories were included: global warming, eutrophication, acidification, energy use and land use. Arable products, eggs and slaughter hens were economically allocated. We interviewed 20 out of 68 Dutch organic egg farmers (>1500 hens) to collect farm data from 2006. Data on transport, feed, rearing and hatching were gathered by conduction interviews with suppliers mentioned by laying hen farmers and from literature. The Life Cycle Inventories of electricity, natural gas, tap water, transport and traction originate from the Eco-Invent V2.0 dataset. For each environmental impact category the impact per kg of egg was split up into four parts of the production chain as well as into one to four compounds (Table 1). We identified a chain-compound combination as a hotspot if it contributed to more than 40% of the total of the environmental impact category. Four hotspots were identified. First, 62% of global warming is caused by emission of nitrous oxide in the feed production chain. Second, 57% of acidification is caused by ammonia emission from the laying hen farm. Third, 47% of energy use is oil used for feed production and fourth, 95% of the land is used for feed production. We identified no hotspot for eutrophication, but feed production contributed most with 37% nitrogen leaching and 26% phosphate accumulation. For the three identified ecological problems we conclude that: 1) Transport is not identified as a hotspot, but contributes 33% to total energy use. 2) Acidification caused by ammonia emission from the organic laying hen farm is identified as a hotspot. 3) Effects of manure deposition in the outdoor run, i.e. eutrophication on the laying hen farm, is not identified as a hotspot. Next to the dimension of quantity, environmental impact also has a time and spatial dimension. These dimensions should be further assessed. We conclude that, except for acidification, optimization options for environmental impact must be sought in feed production and amount of feed input. For acidification, ammonia emission on organic laying hen farms should be reduced. A sensitivity analysis will be executed, to identify powerful production parameters and determine the accuracy of the LCA
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Event6th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment in the Agri-Food Sector -
Duration: 12 Nov 200814 Nov 2008


Conference6th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment in the Agri-Food Sector


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