Home Industry News Dairy Legislation Carbon Foot Printing in the Dairy Value Chain Using a Lifecycle Assessment Approach

Carbon Foot Printing in the Dairy Value Chain Using a Lifecycle Assessment Approach

The International Dairy Federation (IDF) common methodology for lifecycle assessment (LCA) of dairy production and processing was first published in 2010. The guide is designed to assist the dairy industry with its journey to reduce GHG emissions across the value chain. To play its part in mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG), the sector invested considerable effort in trying to better understand the science behind the impact the livestock sector has and how this can be addressed. Instead, the IDF community found itself investing more time comparing methodological approaches as opposed to implementing focused mitigation actions. As a result, the IDF took the bold step of developing a common approach to quantifying GHG emissions. This enabled the dairy community not only to ‘speak the same language’ though focus on the critical task of mitigation.

The current methodology is, to a large extent, aligned with other guidance in this topic area, IPCC, ISO, FAO LEAP, FAO GLEAM with many other LCA initiatives embedding the IDF approach into their respective tools. The Action Team continues to interact with these and other initiatives such as the EU PEF, to achieve or maintain the desired alignment where possible.

Since 2010, the methodology has undergone one revision in 2015. The IDF is acknowledging developments in both science and application techniques of lifecycle assessment and is pursuing a more forensic review and update. This process will ensure the IDF guide is fit for the future and that the dairy sector continues to work at the cutting edge of LCA knowledge.

The importance of an appropriate and consistent approach

What a difference a methodology can make

There are several choices to be made when undertaking LCA/carbon footprint studies. Even though there are standards such as ISO 14044/14067, on how to deliver an LCA study, there is always potential for wide ranging interpretation. That is why it’s important to have sector guidance to provide clarity on specific and unique situations that can have significant impact on the results. For example, one important choice in any dairy LCA study is how to manage the co-products milk and meat. As seen below, how the greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to milk and meat (allocation of impacts to each) has a significant impact on the carbon footprint of milk. Hence, it is critical to align on these methodological choices. Read more HERE.

Flysjö et al. Based on Flysjö, Cederberg, Henriksson and Ledgard. 2011. How does co-product handling affect the carbon footprint of milk? Case study of milk production in New Zealand and Sweden. Int J Life Cycle Assess 16:420–430

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