CO2 footprint for entire Westfleisch chain

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Muenster-based Westfleisch eG is the first German meat marketer to calculate a "corporate carbon footprint" and, in a further stage, a "product carbon footprint" for the entire process chain of pork production. Corresponding projects for beef and veal are scheduled for 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Sustainability is a vision which the third largest meat marketer in Germany actively pursues. The company has long championed the cause of sustainability, for example with its SGS-audited "Westfleisch Quality Partnership". Besides verifiable quality standards this also includes agreeing environmental, animal protection and social aspects, including e.g. a minimum wage, with its business partners.

Westfleisch has now gone a step further and, as part of a comprehensive sustainability report and ecological assessment, has drawn up a systematic CO2 assessment, a so-called carbon footprint for its entire pork production operation.  In this, all greenhouse gases caused by pork production - from rearing and fattening of pigs for slaughter through to meat retail - have been recorded and evaluated in a verifiable form. 

The company's five meat centres were monitored, especially the Westphalian farmers and their own feed production and pig husbandry operations.  It is not a priority at present to attach the climate label to the range of pork products. The emphasis rather is on checking the practicability of such a move.  "It's a possibility, we have the means and we can now start discussing it in more concrete terms," said Dr. Helfried Giesen, Executive Director of Westfleisch eG, summing up the situation. Beef and veal will follow over the next two years, before the pork chain is then reassessed in 2013. 

The CO2 assessment is based on DIN ISO 14040. This lays down how the environmental effects in closed production processes should be analysed. Data is collected throughout the entire lifetime of a product. To assist in preparing the eco-assessment, Westfleisch has engaged the services of BASF SE from Ludwigshafen, which has a vast amount of experience from drawing up over 400 eco-efficiency analyses. Experts from the North-Rhine Westphalian Chamber of Agriculture and Agravis AG, the animal feed producer, also contributed a large quantity of data. Over 25,000 sets of data were analysed. 

Results audited by neutral body 
 
A distinction was made between direct emissions at the company's own locations and the indirect emissions from operations taking place before and after, such as the fattening of pigs, meat processing, transport to the meat counter or disposal of tailings, waste substances and packaging materials. The original data was recorded in more than 50 different questionnaires per location. The regional data was entered via available databases and entered into the calculation models of the BASF SE eco-efficiency analysis group. The final result was then scrutinised in an external audit report carried out by SGS; in the eco-assessment it carries the status of "third party audited".

The carbon footprints show that Westfleisch emits a total of 1.83 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents each year in its pork production. In comparison to the slaughtering and cutting stages, pork production, i.e. rearing and fattening, clearly reflects the decisive impact of agricultural production.

At Westfleisch, the carbon footprint per kilogram of pork produced is 3.2 kilograms of CO2 equivalent. In comparison to other products it emerges that: the production of one kilogram of pork at Westfleisch has roughly the same impact on the environment as consuming 40 cups of coffee, watching 35 hours of TV (medium-size screen) or driving a medium-size car for 20 kilometres. This means that, given a distance of just over ten kilometres to the nearest supermarket, the decision of whether to travel by car or by bicycle represents probably the most important decision in buying a portion of meat for an average-sized family.

Possible improvements

For Westfleisch, the carbon footprint is a fundamental part of a sustainability report as defined by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines. This quantifiably documents the status quo and any shortcomings but also highlights improvements in environment protection, social standards and social responsibility. 

The analysis also shows that e.g. electricity and natural gas consumption levels could be further reduced, slaughter waste made better use of, and packaging material further optimised. Emissions from the farming operations are to be further optimised in collaboration with the farmers. "Our aim is to obtain a picture of the economic, ecological and social performance of Westfleisch which is standardised and therefore comprehensible to our customers and to retailers," announced Dr. Helfried Giesen at the Anuga. 

Westfleisch plans to publish its first sustainability report together with the 2009 annual report.
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