The Egg's Global Footprint: Searching for True Sustainability in Global Egg Production


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The Egg's Global Footprint: Searching for True Sustainability in Global Egg Production

  1. 1. The Egg’s Global FootprintSearching for True Sustainability in Global Egg ProductionBy Dr. Giovanni Gasperoni with Erik DahlPublished April, 2011
  2. 2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARYAround the world, there has been a movement towards organic, local and traditional foods. Youmight expect that the shoppers at Whole Foods, filling their baskets with organically producedfood, are our brightest hope for achieving a sustainable planet. While it may seem comfortingto believe that organically produced food can help mitigate environmental damage and helpshift the world towards a more sustainable food system, that belief is not correct when it comesto eggs. Studies around the world have found that organic and free-range eggs have a largercarbon footprint than eggs produced in a cage system, due primarily to lower productivity andhigher feed consumption.How to make all agriculture more sustainable is the most important question for farmers andconsumers, not the more limited issue of whether organic food is better or worse for theenvironment. True long-term sustainability, in the words of World Wildlife Fund expert Jason Clay, means looking beyond “organic” marketing claims and “figuring out how to produce more with less land, less water and less pollution, so we won’t be the only species left living on this planet.”Making egg production more sustainable should start with feed and the feed conversion rate.Feed accounts for 76 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 92 percent of the ecologicalfootprint associated with the poultry industry. Much of this environmental impact is due to theuse of chemical fertilizer, which is notably absent from the production of organic poultry feed.However, even though organic layers eat feed that is much less energy-intensive, they consumemore feed overall and produce fewer eggs than their non-organic counterparts. How do weweigh the pros and cons of organic feed production (more environmentally friendly feed, but alsoa larger quantity required) against industrial production (less environmentally friendly feed, but alower quantity required)?Life Cycle AssessmentScientists have come up with a solution called Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is the mostholistic method of evaluating the environmental cost of a product or industry over a period ofanywhere from 50 years to 500 years. This approach is effective because it looks beyond thedirect environmental impact of an activity, and takes into account damage caused by interrelatedsupporting activities. 1
  3. 3. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Consider your car, for example. A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) does much more than just measure tailpipe emissions. It also estimates how much pollution was generated in order to: Drill for oil, refine Manufacture the it into gasoline and steel that went ship it to your town into your car Produce the tires on your carApplying Life Cycle Assessment to AgricultureFor agriculture, an LCA takes into account resource use, like land or fossil fuels; emission of pollutants, suchas ammonia or methane; and the resource use of supporting activity, like transportation and farm equipment.For poultry, lower bird performance overrides the benefits of organic feed (Williams, Audsley and Sandars,2006). Shifting U.S. egg production to organic methods would increase the industry’s carbon footprint by 33.3percent (a carbon footprint equivalent to putting 1.4 million additional cars on the road for one year), whileenergy use would rise by 15 percent (equivalent to 1.9 million barrels of oil per year).As the world population continues to grow and as diets in the emerging world increasingly resemble thosein the developed world, identifying environmentally friendly livestock products and adopting sustainableproduction methods take on truly global implications. What might have been sustainable for a world with6 billion people probably would not be sustainable for a world population of more than 9 billion. To get theworld back on a more sustainable footing will require greater intensification of agriculture through moreefficient production systems.Over the last 40 years, huge gains were made in addressing global food shortages and malnutrition. From1970 to 2000, global daily caloric intake per capita increased from 2,400 to 2,790 calories, and is projected torise to 3,150 calories by 2050 (FAO, 2006). Rising incomes and changing consumer preferences over the nextfour decades will require livestock production to double.The challenge will be to expand egg production, while freezing the industry’s overall footprint and protectingthe planet’s biodiversity and ecosystems. Agricultural intensification offers a pathway for conservingbiological diversity, and reducing the industry’s environmental footprint. 2
  4. 4. FEED: THE LEADING SOURCE OF GREENHOUSE GASSESBy 2050, meat production in emerging countries is expected to more than double to nearly 350million tons, while meat production in developed countries will rise by 50 percent to around 150million tons (Steinfeld, p. 15).The challenge of identifying and adopting environmentally friendly livestock production methodstakes on increased urgency in light of the global implications of continued world populationgrowth and the convergence of diets in the emerging world with those of the developed world.Mounting concern regarding human-caused climate change and growing consumer awarenessof the industry’s environmental footprint have created demand for more environmentally friendlylivestock products. It is important that both consumers and producers are aware of the actualimpact of different production methods.The LCA is the first step in measuring the environmental impact of livestock. It inventories allmaterials, energy inputs and emissions associated with each stage of a product life cycle, andthen measures the total environmental cost of that product over an appropriately defined periodof time. Several LCA studies on livestock products have identified feed as the largest source ofgreenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the poultry supply chain. Feed accounts for 80 percent of energy use, 76 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 92 percent of the ecological footprint of the broiler supply chain in the U.S., from cradle to farm gate. 1 Hatchery In-barn Litter Poultry Feed Chicks Energy Use Management Energy use 80% 2% 18% <1% GHG Em. (kg CO2 equivalent) 76% <1% 12% 12% Ecological footprint (m2) 92% 1% 3% 4%1 Source: Pelletier, 2008. 3
  5. 5. FEED: THE LEADING SOURCE OF GREENHOUSE GASSESFertilizer production is the largest single contributor to energy use in feed crop production(Pelletier, 2008). It accounts for about one-third of the fossil fuels used to produce feed (Steinfeld,p. 86 and p. 88). Organic feed does not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and organic animalproducts generally require less energy than their non-organic counterparts. However, eggs andpoultry are exceptions to this rule, due to the non-organic sector’s overall efficiency and highfeed conversion rate. A cage system produces 23.6 percent more eggs per kilogram (kg) of feed,thanks to a combination of lower feed input and higher egg output. Consequently, organic eggproduction uses 15 percent more energy and has a carbon footprint 33 percent larger than cagedproduction. Simply put, the higher bird performance of non-organic production overrides thelower energy needs of organic feed (Williams, Audsley and Sandars, 2006). Comparison burdens of production in some alternative egg production systems (per 20,000 eggs) 2 100% Cage, 100% Free-range, Impacts and Resources Used Non-organic Organic Non-organic Non-organic Primary energy used (MJ) 14,100 16,100 13,600 15,400 GWP100 5,530 7,000 5,250 6,180 (kg 100 year CO2 equivalent) Egg production data used in the LCA model 2 Free-range Organic Free-range Barn Eggs Housed Layers Layers Layers Eggs (number per layer) 289 262 288 295 Layer feed (kg) 49.3 49.3 47.8 44.9 Mortality 0.08 0.08 0.07 0.05 Manure deposited indoors 44.4 44.4 50.5 50.5 (kg head-1 year-1) Methane (kg/head) 0.03 0.03 0.03 0.03 Ammonia (kg/head) 0.22 0.22 0.25 0.2 Nitrous oxide (g/head) 15.1 15.1 15.1 10.82 Source: Williams, Audsley and Sandars, 2006. 4
  6. 6. QUANTIFYING THE COST OF ORGANIC PRODUCTION If the U.S. egg industry were to become 100 percent organic, how would that affect the environment and alter the industry’s carbon footprint? The United States produced about 5.3 million metric tons of eggs in 2007 . 3Shifting from 100 percent cage/non-organic layer production to organic productionwould require the U.S. egg industry to increase its layer flock by 13 percent andincrease feed consumption by 24 percent4. This shift would: Increase energy consumption by an additional Increase the industry’s Global Warming 11.3 billion megajoules (MJ). A barrel of oil Potential (GWP) by 33.3 percent, or contains about 6,000 MJ of energy. 7.9 million tons of CO2. This increase would be equivalent to depleting This increase would be equivalent to putting an additional 1.9 million barrels of oil. 1.4 million more cars on the road.3 According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.4 Based on estimates from Williams et al. 5
  7. 7. A M O R E S U S TA I N A B L E E G G I N D U S T R YHow to make all agriculture more sustainable is therefore the most important question for farmers andconsumers, not the more limited question of whether organic food is better or worse for the environment.Industrialization and intensification of egg production results in more eggs and requires less feed,less energy and fewer resources than organic methods. Even though housed layers have a smallercarbon footprint than organic layers, there is still room for improvement. Feed is the largest source ofgreenhouse gasses, and organic feeds have lower energy needs than non-organic feeds. Using lessenergy-intensive feed could be a “best practice” for the industry to consider.Impact in the Emerging World Per Capita Egg Production Now (in kilograms of hen eggs) PotentialThe true implications of industrialization andintensification will be felt in the emerging world, Chinawhich already accounts for about 70 percent of world Brazilegg production5. By utilizing existing best practices, World Averageemerging countries could boost bird productivity by Nigeriaabout 70 percent. Bringing the emerging world up to Emerging Countriesthe developed world’s productivity levels would boostworld egg production by 48 percent without adding a Africasingle bird. 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 World Egg Production Egg Production Per Layer (in metric tons) (in kilograms of hen eggs) 100,000,000 16.0 90,000,000 14.0 80,000,000 70,000,000 12.0 60,000,000 10.0 50,000,000 Emerging Emerging 8.0 40,000,000 6.0 30,000,000 4.0 20,000,000 2.0 10,000,000 Developed Developed 0 0 World Emerging Developed Now Potential Average Countries CountriesOver the next 40 years, rising incomes and changing consumer preferences will cause livestock productsto increase from 17 percent of food energy to 30 percent, requiring that meat production double from 2001levels. GHG emissions per unit of production would need to be cut in half for the industry to simply maintainits current level of GWP (Pelletier, 2008). Although there is still much work to be done, intensified productionshows how the world can produce more eggs with less land, less feed and less energy than any otherproduction technology. Intensified production may not be organic, but it is sustainable—which is the wiser,long-term choice for the planet.5 Australia, Europe, Japan, New Zealand and North America combined account for 29.8% of world henegg production by weight and 27.0% by number of eggs with only 20% of layers, according to FAOSTAT. 6
  8. 8. Dr. Giovanni GasperoniExecutive Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Novus International, Inc.Dr. Giovanni Gasperoni is Executive VicePresident, Marketing and Sales for NovusInternational, Inc., a global health andnutrition company with annual sales ofnearly $1 billion. Novus, headquartered inmetropolitan St. Louis, Missouri, is a privatelyheld company, jointly owned by Mitsui & Co.(U.S.A.), Inc. and Nippon Soda Co., Ltd.In the past ten years, Dr. Gasperoni has playeda key role in extending the Novus productportfolio into new areas—including strategicnutrition, gut health and feed quality—and expanding the Novus product line from three coreproducts in the poultry market to more than 100 products in different markets, including beef,dairy, pork and aquaculture.A native of Italy, Dr. Gasperoni graduated cum laude from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine,University of Bologna. He began his career as a marketing consultant for Monsanto Europe.In that capacity, he conducted an analysis of the methionine market in Italy, which led to afull-time position with Monsanto as Manager, Counter Trade. As a manager for Monsanto,he coordinated a project that led to the commercialization of a new Defluorinated Phosphate(DFP) feed-grade phosphate in the former Soviet Union.Dr. Gasperoni joined Novus in 1994 as Director, Worldwide Technical Organization, relocatingto the company’s global headquarters in St. Louis. He was named Director, AntioxidantsBusiness in 2000, responsible for the global marketing and sales of all antioxidant products.Under his leadership, the Antioxidants Business developed and secured new partnershipswith suppliers in Korea and China, and developed a new product line of natural antioxidantsfor use in animal feed.Dr. Gasperoni became the head of Marketing and Sales for Novus in 2001, leading the effortto build a direct sales organization in Asia. He was appointed Vice President, Marketing andSales in 2002. Five years later, he formally assumed the position of Executive Vice President,Marketing and Sales.Dr. Gasperoni is fluent in five languages: English, Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Hefrequently speaks at conferences and events around the world on a variety of topics relatedto future trends in animal agriculture.
  9. 9. BIBLIOGRAPHYde Vries, M., & de Boer, I. (2009). Comparing Environmental Impacts for Livestock Products: A Review of Life CycleAssessments. Livestock Science.FAO. (2006). World Agriculture Towards 2030-2050. Prospects for Food, Nutrition, Agriculture and Major Commodity Groups.Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.Katajajuuri, J. (2008). Experiences and Improvement Possibilities—LCA Case Study of Broiler Chicken Production. Zurich.Matson, P. Vitousek, P. (2006). Agricultural Intensification: Will land spared from farming be land spared for nature?Conservation Biology Volume 20, No. 3, 709-710.Pelletier, N., (2008). Environmental Performance in the U.S. Broiler Poultry Sector: Life cycle energy use and greenhouse gas,ozone depleting, acidifying and eutrophying emissions. Agricultural Systems 98, 67–73.Pimentel D., Williamson S., Alexander C., Gonzalez-Pagan O., Kontak C. and Mulkey S. (2008). Reducing Energy Inputs in theU.S. Food System. Human Ecology 36: 459-471.Steinfeld, H., Gerber, P., Wasssenaar, T., Castel, V., Rosales, M. and de Haan, C. (2006). Livestock’s Long Shadow: EnvironmentalIssues and Options. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.Williams, A.G., Audsley, E. and Sandars, D.L. (2006). Determining the Environmental Burdens and Resource Use in theProduction of Agricultural and Horticultural Commodities. Main Report. Defra Research Project IS0205. Bedford: CranfieldUniversity and Defra. Available on: and AND SOURCESHectares to Square Miles: One hectare = 0.0038610216 square milesEnergy: • One barrel of oil = six gigajoules or 6,000 megajoules (Source: Bioenergy Feedstock Development Programs at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; • Car emissions: One U.S. automobile emits 12,000 pounds of CO2 per year (Source: Environmental Defense Fund; O N TA C T U SIf you have comments on this white paper or would like further Novus International, Inc.information about sustainability in global egg production, please Attn: Tricia Bealcontact the Novus Sustainability team by sending an email to 20 Research Park or send a request in writing to the St. Charles, MO 63304address on the right. United States of America