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article imageThe digital farm and the impact of ‘green’ eggs

By Tim Sandle     Sep 17, 2017 in Business
Okanagan - Scientists have been tracking the environmental footprint of Canadian egg products and looking at the optimal models of farming to reduce environmental impacts. The model has utilized digital technology.
The results will be of interest to the farming community, including those thinking of setting up small holdings, as well as to the general public interested in environmental issues and with reducing environmental impact.
The study comes from the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus and the headline news is that poultry given vegan organic chicken feed will produce eggs with a smaller environmental footprint compared with chickens fed non-organic feeds, especially feedstuffs that contain animal by-products.
This outcome was shown by analyzing the cradle-to-customer environmental life cycle assessment of Canadian egg and egg product supply chains, undertaken by the ecological economist Nathan Pelletier. The focus of this assessment was with pinpointing opportunities for system efficiency and environmental improvements.
The surprise was that only a narrow set of variables, and most significantly, feed composition; contribute to differences in carbon emission production as well as resource demand. This was after taking account such factors as the type of feed and housing, right through to the type of manure used. The analysis quantified the flows and costs of materials, energy, and emissions for each step of the supply chain.
In a statement made to his university’s website, the academic said: “With over 1, 000 registered farms, producing more than 70 million tons of eggs annually, Canada’s egg industry is an excellent example of the opportunities and challenges in managing food production systems for sustainability objectives.”
The reason why feed is the number one issue is because organic feed of a non-livestock source needs fewer resources and has lower emissions when measured in comparison with conventional feed. This outcome means that farms can make a difference. In Canada alone, farms range from smaller set-ups with just a few hundred hens to those that have over 400,000 chickens; and the requirement for eggs shows no sign of slowing down. To assist farmers Dr. Pelletier aims to design an on-line tool to help farmers to measure farm-specific impacts and to set goals.
The research has been published in Journal of Cleaner Production under the title “Life cycle assessment of Canadian egg products, with differentiation by hen housing system type.”
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