Carbon footprint and pig production

Greenhouse gases are a group of gases that include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and others. Increasing the concentration of these gases in the atmosphere causes the Earth’s overall temperature to rise, which impacts the Earth’s climate. When we produce food in the form of milk, meat, cereals, etc, methane, for example, is emitted through belching and flatulence when live-stock digest feed and when livestock manure is stored in housing units and manure stores.

CO2 emissions from agricultural energy consumption (fuel and electricity) account for only about 10 per cent of agriculture’s total official carbon footprint. Moreover, there are also direct CO2 emissions from drained humus-rich lowland areas, but such emissions are not currently recognised in agriculture’s official carbon footprint. These lowland areas account for up to 170,000 hectares.

Growing crops on agricultural land necessitates the spreading of nitrogen in the form of livestock manure or commercial fertiliser to prevent any impoverishment of the soil.  A negative side effect of this is the creation of nitrous oxide in the soil through biological processes. Nitrous oxide is a highly potent greenhouse gas. By contrast, plants also take in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, which is part of the climate solution.

The relative distribution of the carbon footprint to produce a pig from birth to slaughter in Denmark:

Preliminary calculation for the PORK project based on the PEF calculation method. The relative distribution is expressed in percent. Source: SEGES, Danish Agriculture & Food Council.