Life Cycle Assessment of Meat


Meat is an important food in Switzerland, and of major economic importance for the retail trade and the farming sector. At the same time, meat production places a burden on our environment, for which it has increasingly come under fire. Exactly how much environmental pollution is created by a kilo of meat, though? Does it depend on where and how this meat was produced?

The ‘Environmental Assessment of Beef, Pork and Poultry' research initiative answered such questions. The aim of the initiative was to create an LCA of beef, pork and poultry (chicken) in Switzerland and in selected import countries, and to compare the environmental impacts of the various production systems.

To this end, a product LCA of Swiss cattle, pig and poultry-fattening systems up to the farm gate was created for a standard variant according to the Proof of Ecological Performance (PEP), a PEP variant with high-animal-welfare husbandry (BTS/RAUS criteria, suckler-cow husbandry) and an organic variant, respectively. Two foreign variants per animal species in each case served as examples for comparison with Swiss production at delivery to the point of sale. For beef, these were production in Germany and Brazil; for pork, in Germany and Denmark; and for poultry, in France and Brazil.

In all of the systems studied, agricultural production dominated the environmental impacts, with the design of cultivation and production practices rather than place of production being key here. The decisive factor in the environmental impact of the saleable meat is therefore how it is produced rather than where. The results highlight the environmental impacts of meat production and provide points of reference for optimisations in the Swiss agricultural sector as well as for measures in the Swiss Coop procurement chain.

Belonging to the M-Industrie group, Micarna SA is one of the most important meat processors in Switzerland. As part of implementing its sustainability strategy, Micarna would like to position its meat products in comparison to typical products from Switzerland and abroad in terms of their environmental impacts. To this end, Agroscope carries out product LCA's for the poultry, pork and beef production systems, and compares their environmental impacts with those of typical Swiss and foreign systems. The aim here is to identify strengths and weaknesses and highlight potential for improvement. This will ideally result internally in the improvement of the systems and the optimisation of procurement.