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Analysing the carbon footprint of food

insights for consumer communication

Röös, Elin (2013). Analysing the carbon footprint of food. Diss. (sammanfattning/summary) Uppsala : Sveriges lantbruksuniv., Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae, 1652-6880 ; 2013:56
ISBN 978-91-576-7850-8
eISBN 978-91-576-7851-5
[Doctoral thesis]

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In Europe, food consumption is responsible for approximately 30% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There has been huge interest in estimating the carbon footprint (CF) of food products, i.e. the total amount of GHG emitted during the life cycle of the product, and communicating these to consumers to enable them to make informed choices. This thesis provides additional knowledge of several related issues regarding calculating and acting on the CF of food products in order to facilitate the design of effective consumer communication strategies. The uncertainty in the CF of Swedish potatoes and pasta was established to investigate the detail to which food CF can be determined. For a well-defined geographical area the uncertainty was in the range ±10-30%, indicating that the CF uncertainty for more complex foods or foods with a more unspecific origin is considerably higher. Emissions of N₂O from soils dominated the emissions and uncertainties, and yield was an influential parameter for all crops. Possible risks of pollution swapping when acting on CF were investigated in the case of meat production. For meat from monogastric animals, in most cases the CF functions as an indicator for land, energy and pesticide use, and for acidification and eutrophication potential, but for ruminant meat there are possible conflicts with biodiversity, energy and pesticide use. In an attempt to develop a tool that communicates the CF of meat in an efficient way, while highlighting important trade-offs, a criteria-based meat guide based on the knowledge gained was developed. A critical review of CF labelling from a consumer perspective showed that obstacles known to prevent purchase of organic foods, e.g. perceived high price and strong habits, apply equally or more so to the purchase of CF labelled foods. Hence, CF labelling of food in a retail setting is of limited effectiveness, but CF values are important in business-to-business communication, in policy development and for developing efficient and scientifically justified consumer communication messages. Quantification of the reduction potential from a commonly recommended option, 'eating seasonal', showed that consuming tomatoes and carrots seasonally in Sweden could reduce the CF by 30-60%. This is a substantial reduction for these products, but a small reduction in view of the total GHG emissions from the complete average diet. This illustrates the importance of calculating CF values of food and setting the results in perspective.

Authors/Creators:Röös, Elin
Title:Analysing the carbon footprint of food
Subtitle:insights for consumer communication
Series Name/Journal:Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
Year of publishing :2013
Number of Pages:96
I.Röös, E., Sundberg, C. and Hansson, P.-A. (2010). Uncertainties in the carbon footprint of food products: a case study on table potatoes. International Journal of LCA 15, 478-488.
II.Röös, E., Sundberg, C. and Hansson, P.-A. (2011). Uncertainties in the carbon footprint of refined wheat products: a case study on Swedish pasta. International Journal of LCA 16, 338-350.
III.Röös, E., Sundberg, C., Tidåker, P., Strid, I. and Hansson, P.-A. (2013). Can carbon footprint serve as an indicator of the environmental impact of meat production? Ecological Indicators 24, 573-581.
IV.Röös, E. and Tjärnemo, H. (2011). Challenges of carbon labelling of food products: a consumer research perspective. British Food Journal 113 (8), 982-996.
V.Röös, E. and Karlsson, H. (2013). Effect of eating seasonal on the carbon footprint of Swedish vegetable consumption. Journal of Cleaner Production – in press.
VI.Röös, E., Ekelund, L. and Tjärnemo, H. Communicating the sustainability of meat production: challenges in the development of a Swedish meat guide. Manuscript to be submitted to Journal of Cleaner Production.
Place of Publication:Uppsala
Publisher:Dept. of Energy and Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
ISBN for printed version:978-91-576-7850-8
ISBN for electronic version:978-91-576-7851-5
Publication Type:Doctoral thesis
Full Text Status:Public
Agris subject categories.:P Natural resources > P40 Meteorology and climatology
Q Food science > Q01 Food science and technology
T Pollution > T01 Pollution
Subjects:(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 1 Natural sciences > 105 Earth and Related Environmental Sciences > Climate Research
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 4 Agricultural Sciences > 401 Agricultural, Forestry and Fisheries > Food Science
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 4 Agricultural Sciences > 405 Other Agricultural Sciences > Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 5 Social Sciences > 508 Media and Communications > Communication Studies
Agrovoc terms:foods, food production, carbon dioxide, environmental impact, greenhouse gases, meat, vegetables, pasta, potatoes, life cycle analysis, product labelling, statistical uncertainty, consumer behaviour, sweden
Keywords:carbon footprint, food, uncertainty, pollution swapping, consumer, communication, seasonal, meat guide, life cycle assessment
Permanent URL:
ID Code:10757
Department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Energy and Technology
External funders:FORMAS
Deposited By: Elin Röös
Deposited On:27 Aug 2013 07:38
Metadata Last Modified:02 Dec 2014 11:02

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