Axel Woitowitz

Auswirkungen einer Einschränkung des Verzehrs von Lebensmitteln tierischer Herkunft auf ausgewählte Nachhaltigkeitsindikatoren dargestellt am Beispiel konventioneller und ökologischer Wirtschaftsweise

Karlsruhe: Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe 2008
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Production and consumption of food products in general and animal products in particular form an important part of German economy. Considering the total employment level in Germany, employees in agriculture account for 3%. In total the food industry (this includes food machinery, nutritional industry and trade, hotel and restaurant business amongst others) employs around 11% of the total workforce and accounts for about 6% of gross productivity. Excessive eating and malnutrition are accountable for various long term deficiencies. Over weight and food related diseases have become national health hazards of substantial expenses. Furthermore agriculture in general and especially animal farming have a negative influence on the environment. In particular this is true in emissions of climate affecting gases like dinitrogen monoxide and methane.

The supply of Germany's population with food related energy as well as protein and fat lie above scientifically recommended levels. The present average consumption per person per year is about 60 kilograms of meat, 330 kilograms of dairy products and approximately 13 kilograms of eggs. Including all other food products this results in an energy supply of 2.440kcal for men and 2.190 kcal for women. This exceeds recommended energy supply levels by around 15%.

Following the health recommendations of the German Society for Nutrition regarding consumption of protein and meat products, the average consumption of animal food products per person per year should be limited to 20 kilograms of meat, 210 kilograms of dairy products and 6 kilograms of eggs. The recommended reduction of the consumption of animal food products would result in halving the present number of farm animals under the existing animal farming methods. (i.e. from presently 15 million livestock units to about 7 million livestock units).

Considering the afore mentioned facts this paper investigates various strategies to reduce long term deficiencies of the German populations´ consumption attitude. The following questions are being dealt with:

To answer these questions the total production process of animal food products has to be investigated, from agricultural production to subsequent processing, including storage and transport to the final point of sale. In addition to the prevailing conventional economic situation of farming and processing in Germany, the effects of a conventional resource friendly and ecological economy will be investigated. An resource friendly process differs from a conventional method mainly by replacing mineral based fertilizers with organic ones and by feeding animals with high energy fodder produced on site.

For comparison purposes of traditional and varied methods of consumption attitudes and economy the investigated procedures are assessed in connection with their effect on sustainable development. To achieve this the concept of integrated sustainability as developed by ITAS was used, and adapted to the regional settings and the specific subject of this study paper. Conditions of sustainability are dealt with by investigating socialeconomical as well as environmental aspects. This includes in particular safeguarding the position of self-employed people, use of non-renewable resources, utilisation of the environment as a carbon sink, and the fair use of environmental applications. For organisational purposes of these minimal conditions of sustainable development the following indicators are applied in this paper:

Production of animal food products involves a rather high primary energy consumption in agricultural production, whereas the processing and transportation - with the exception of milk - are of minor importance. The highest primary energy consumption is tied to providing meat products by applying conventional methods, i.e. 34.5 MJ per kilogramme of beef and 20.3 MJ for pork. Two thirds of this energy consumption are related to agricultural animal farming. This part of energy consumption will not be affected by applying resource friendly or ecological meat production processes. The primary energy consumption of the production of beef can be reduced by a quarter by applying resource friendly processes. Savings in the production of pork and poultry are substantially less (savings of 7% and 3% in comparison with conventional methods). The provision of ecologically produced beef uses 2% less energy than conventional methods. In the ecological production process of pork and poultry substantially more primary energy is required (16% and 36% more than under conventional production methods). The production of eggs by applying conventional methods requires 23.8 MJ per kilogramme, by applying resource friendly methods 20.5 MJ per kilogramme, and 22.8 MJ per kilogramme by using ecological processes. Providing conventionally produced milk uses 5.4 MJ, resource friendly production of milk 4.8 MJ, and ecologically produced milk 5.2 MJ per kilogram. Thereof half of primary energy consumption is related to agriculture. It can be seen that animal food products provided under ecological aspects will not in all cases result in product related primary energy reductions when compared with the application of conventional methods. Primarily this is due to the substantially lower requirements as a consequence of intensified production. Overall a resource friendly economy requires the lowest level of primary energy consumption. This is not surprising as this method of production aims to reduce the usage of resources, whilst at the same time endeavouring to obtain high production levels of animal food products.

A large part of the emissions of climate affecting greenhouse gases (methane, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide) is related to the production of animal food products due to animal farming, whereas subsequent transport and processing cause only comparatively low greenhouse gas emissions. Of the investigated processes the ecological production of beef results in the largest greenhouse gas emission with 10.900 grams CO2 equivalent per kilogram of meat. Compared with conventional methods of production this is only an increase of 1,3 %. A substantial reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (about 13 % when compared with conventional methods) can be achieved by employing resource friendly production methods. Production of ecologically manufactured pork requires only half of greenhouse gases (5.670 grams CO2 equivalent per kilogram) as compared with ecological beef production. These emissions exceed those from conventional production methods by 18 %. Resource friendly processes produce again lower greenhouse emissions (around 5 %) in comparison with conventional methods. Ecological poultry processing causes the comparatively largest amounts of climate affecting greenhouse gases. (3.580 grams CO2 equivalent per kilogram). This is an emission increase of 32 % over conventional methods. A resources friendly process results in a reduction of greenhouse gases emissions of 7 % over conventional methods. In the production of chicken eggs emissions of greenhouse gases from conventional and resources friendly methods with 2.730 and 2.350 grams CO2 equivalent per kilogram are about at the same levels as in the production of poultry meat. Production of chicken eggs under ecological methods are with 2.540 grams CO2 equivalent per kilogramme marginally lower than under conventional conditions. Conventional milk production causes 950 grams CO2 equivalent per kilogram. Of this almost 90 % is produced during agriculture. Similar absolute and relative emission levels are being created in resources friendly (nearly 870 grams CO2 equivalent per kilogram) as well as ecological (almost 970 grams CO2 equivalent per kilogram) milk production processes. The results show that the ecologically production process creates worse greenhouse gas emissions than conventional production methods, the only exception being egg production. To a large part this is due to the inefficient performance levels during the production process of animal food products. The contribution to total emission levels arising during transport and finishing is of minor importance. Only in the production of poultry this part accounts for 30 %. In the production process of beef the share is less than 10 %. The results show that the total of greenhouse gas emissions arising from ruminant animal (milk-cows and fatstock) farming is mainly caused by methane, whereas in pig and poultry farming only one third of total emissions is due to methane. During monogastric animals (pigs and poultry) animal farming emissions of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide are substantial.

Results of the man-hour requirements during the production process indicate variations according to the selected production methods. The calculation included man-hour requirements during farming, during manufacture of animal food products and during transportation. A presentation of emission values of resources friendly processes can be ignored as the values hardly differ from conventional production processes. Conventional milk production requires about 0,9 man-hour minutes per kilogram. Ecological milk production requires around 1,5 man-hour minutes per kilogram due to the work intensive farming methods, that is almost 50 % more. Also in the production of meat and eggs ecological methods require clearly more man-hours per kilogramme than under conventional methods. The man-hour requirements for conventionally produced beef is 8,1, for pork production 4,6 and for poultry products 4,1 man-hour minutes per kilogram. For ecologically produced meat the respective man-hour minutes per kilogramme are 9,7 for beef, 7,6 for pork and 5,6 for poultry. Also conventional chicken egg production requires 1,2 man-hour minutes per kilogramme as compared to 3,5 man-hour minutes per kilogram in work intensive ecological production processes.

Floor space usable for agriculture is a limited resource and is being used for various purposes (production of fodder, foodstuffs, regrowing raw materials, bio-energy carriers). Due to the inferior efficiency of fodder utilisation the production of animal food products requires a comparatively large floor space area. Imports of animal fodder resulted in part of the floor space being located abroad. Calculations show that ecological beef production requires the largest product related floor space (20,7 square metres per kilogram). This floor space requirement lies about 52 % above the requirements for conventional production processes. Ecologically produced pork and poultry require 10,1 respectively 8,1 square metres per kilogramme. This is 42 % and 80 % above conventional production floor space requirements. For the conventional production of eggs 4,8 square metres per kilogram egg substance is required as compared to 7,2 square metres for ecological production. The lowest product related floor space is required in milk production with 1,6 square metres per kilogram for conventional and 2,1 square metres per kilogram for ecological production processes. The substantially greater floor space requirements in ecologically produced animal food products reflects the rules for ecological agriculture with regard to floor space requirements per animal. An additional effect on floor space requirements is caused by lower productivity in growing plants used as fodder and by the inferior utilisation of fodder in ecologically animal farming.

On the basis of the above a reduction of meat consumption by one third, of milk by two thirds and of eggs by 50 %, the present consumption of primary energy in the food industry (animal food products only) can be reduced to 56 % of the present level of conventional production and management. An even bigger saving (to 50 % of present levels) can be achieved by reduction in consumption and by applying resources friendly processes. For ecological processes the respective total reduction would result in 55 % of the above levels.

The potential of reducing greenhouse gases would be at a similar level. The respective figures would be reduced to 55 % for conventional production, to 56 % for ecological processes and to 50 % for resources friendly production of present greenhouse gas emissions. These measures would be a substantial contribution to safeguarding the environment's climate. Considering the consumption of non-renewable energy carriers and the emissions of greenhouse gases the resources friendly production method is the most preferable one. Respective results of conventional and ecological production processes are almost identical.

The share of primary energy consumption used for the production of the necessary amounts of animal food products will be reduced to about 1 % as compared to the present level of 2 % of total energy consumption of Germany, if animal food consumption is reduced as outlined. Calculations of greenhouse gas emissions include apart from energy related (carbon dioxide) emissions also methane and nitrous oxide where these exceed the greenhouse gases effect of carbon dioxide. Therefore the share of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from production of animal food products and at present consumption levels is about 7 % of total emissions of Germany. Taking into account the reduction of consumption the share of greenhouse gas emissions will reduce to 3,5 % of total emissions.

Manpower requirements following a reducing in production output of animal food products will be substantially lower. For conventional production processes alone the reduction of manpower would be 50 % of levels at the beginning of this century. Under ecological production processes about 90 % of work places could be saved. When including transport and manufacture ecological production processes require about 50 % more than conventional production processes.

The share of floor space required for the production of animal food products will be reduced following the drop in consumption levels. For ecological production processes floor space requirement following a reduction in consumption levels will go down to 85% of present floor space. For conventional production only 60 % of present floor space would be required. The savings of floor space could be used at home or abroad to achieve sustainable development goals (e.g. preservation of nature, production of renewable raw products, or bioenergy carriers).

The afore mentioned findings permit a statement regarding the effects of a reduction in the consumption of animal food products. In its interpretation the following guidelines of this study have to be considered:

The results of this study lead to the conclusion that the amount of the consumption of animal food products will have a deciding effect on indicators regarding sustainability. In comparison the type of selected economy has a much lower effect on deficits in sustainability. The effects of a preference of a specified amount of animal food consumption or a preference for a certain type of economic process can not clearly be answered regarding sustainability. The respective pros and cons should be compared and evaluated. For a final assessment of a limited consumption of animal food products considering varying production processes it is desirable and necessary to include further indicators.


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