With the United Nations and many of the world leaders in climate change on their way to Durban for COP-17, I think it might be worthwhile focussing on some Food Chain and Food Processing Issues that effect the carbon footprint of the food we eat.
There is no lack of information and discussion in the area, so I will not be trying to give you a full picture, but rather I will present some of the things that interest me and maybe identify places you can go to get information.
To start if off I suggest you have a look at this paper, that was publicised 5 years ago when the whole let’s not import food from afar was first voiced and seemed to make sense.
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The first think that strikes the reader is the complexity of the analysis necessary to evaluate the carbon impact of a food product sitting on the plate of the consumer. Not only are there a whole range of possibilities but all activities in the Value Chain need to be considered in detail. One of the most complex issues that makes the comparison of data very difficult is where is the boundary drawn within which the carbon foot print is calculated – must the evaluation go back to the mining of the iron ore which was used to make the steel that forms a filler valve?
What this and a study of the document clearly shows is that it is most likely to make simple comparisons without fully understanding all value chains. even then one may worry that it’s too easy to “pull the wool” over the readers eyes in defining how the carbon footprint is evaluated in any particular case.
This obviously makes the simple “mines better than yours argument” impossible to make without detail investigation and infant many counter intuitive results have allready been identified by detailed like cycle analyses.
The conclusion and recommendation of this report, on only a small sector of the food industry, are rather disappointing as they are rather imprecise identifying many valid issues and needing to call for “much more study”.
An interesting comment in the paper, was that the carbon footprint is probably closely related to the perishibillity of the product. This since cold chain operation, transport and cold storage as well as their effect on waste are all big factors in the emission of green house gasses.
Finally, for technologists and scientists it’s important to note that reductions is ghg emissions are probably just as likely to come from behavior change as from new technology.