GERMANY, Bad Zwischenahn. Rügenwalder Mühle has commissioned the industry's first ecological comparison of meat-based, vegetarian and vegan products. The main aim now is to specifically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
On behalf of the manufacturer of meat and meat-free alternatives Rügenwalder Mühle, the Öko-Institut has mapped the environmental profiles of three variants of the product "Schinken-Spicker". The experts looked at the impact categories of greenhouse potential, water consumption, soil acidification, eutrophication and land use.
According to the company, the study shows that the environmental impact in all five categories is highest for the meat-based product. The vegetarian version performs consistently better, and the vegan one best. The food manufacturer uses the Global Warming Potential (GWP according to IPCC 2013) as an example to show the gradation. Thus, the life cycle of 80 g of the classic Ham Spicker version "Colorful Paprika Lyoner" with 66% pork content goes hand in hand with the emission of 560 g CO2 equivalents. The vegetarian version with colored peppers emits 340 g, while the vegan version with grilled vegetables emits 240 g.
For all three test subjects, the scientists found that the greatest impact on the environment comes from the upstream value chain. There, the provision of raw materials is particularly significant. In the case of the pork-based Schinken Spicker, feedstuffs in particular are responsible for the fact that raw materials account for 68% of the emission volume. In the case of the vegetarian product, raw materials induce 44% of the CO2 footprint. The further lifecycle stages of manufacturing process, packaging/distribution/storage and finally purchase, use and disposal by consumers contribute 180 g to 190 g of CO2 to the climate footprint for all three products.
The fanned-out results allow targeted reduction measures to be derived. "We are working in close cooperation with suppliers to optimize the sourcing of raw materials," shares the family-owned company based in Bad Zwischenahn. In addition, the Ammerland company wants to further reduce its climate footprint by converting vegetarian products to vegan. According to the company, the next candidates on the agenda are the vegetarian Mühlen Bratwürste and the vegetarian Mühlen Frikadellen for the frying pan.
For the comparative balancing, which according to Rügenwalder mill is so far unique in the food industry, the experts from South Baden collected primary data themselves due to the lack of available secondary data. Based on the measurements, the value chain of the three products was then modeled in-house. "This is why the quality and informative value of the study are particularly high," says Florian Antony, Senior Researcher Products and Material Flows at Öko-Institut.