Allocation factors and issues in agricultural carbon footprint: a case study of the Canadian pork industry.

Vergé, X.P.C., Maxime, D., Desjardins, R.L., and VanderZaag, A.C. (2016). "Allocation factors and issues in agricultural carbon footprint: a case study of the Canadian pork industry.", Journal of Cleaner Production, 113, pp. 587-595. doi : 10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.11.046  Access to full text

Abstract

The choice of the calculation pathways used to estimate the environmental impact of human activities is of importance since it could modify the results of such studies. This is the case for the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) which is now commonly used to perform environmental assessments: the allocation methods used have an important impact on calculations and can potentially affect the final results. This could have a very negative impact on the LCA in terms of adoption and trust in the results. In the current study, the Canadian swine sector has been used as a case study and the carbon footprint of pork production has been estimated regionally for the year 2006. In this study, these calculations were performed using different allocation approaches to study the impact and usefulness of each method. No-allocation, economic-allocation, and mass-allocation approaches were used. Owing to climate and production-type specificities, calculations were done for eastern and western Canada in addition to the national estimates. Total greenhouse gas emissions were higher in the east (3.5 Mt CO2e) than in the west (3.1 Mt CO2e). However, the carbon footprint followed an opposite trend. Considering the primal cut products and, in turn, the mass allocation, the economic allocation and no allocations, the CFs were 2.6 kgCO2e, 3.8 kgCO2e and 4.0 kgCO2e per kg of product for the east and 3.2 kgCO2e, 4.7 kgCO2e and 5.0 kgCO2e per kg of product for the west. The current study shows that, in fact, allocation methods are not interchangeable and should be selected based on the specificity of each study: the no-allocation approach can be used to analyze on-farm production, economic allocation is oriented to market studies, and mass allocation is well suited to environmental sustainability assessments.

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