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Boost in Environmental Credentials by UK Pig Industry

27 January 2014

UK - Between 2008 and 2012, the UK pig industry reduced its climate change impact by 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to a new report launched in London earlier this week. Jackie Linden reports.

The forward-thinking and innovative nature of the UK pig industry has been demonstrated in the achievements published in a new report from the British Pig Executive (BPEX) on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the industry, according to Farming Minister, George Eustice, MP.

He was speaking at the launch of the report, ‘Positive Progress: An Update on the Roadmap for the Environmental Sustainability of the English Pig Industry’ at the House of Commons in London on 21 January 2014.

The picture above shows the presentation of the report with (from left to right): Mr Eustice, Neil Parish, MP (who hosted the meeting) and Stewart Houston and Nigel Penlington of BPEX.

The report charts the progress made since the Environment Roadmap was published in 2011. As BPEX Chairman, Stewart Houston explained, it had set out ambitious reduction targets for the industry in terms of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) for 2020.

Achievements 2008 to 2012

In summary, the following reductions have been achieved per kilo of pork between 2008 and 2012:

  • Climate change (kg CO2-equivalents): 6.18kg to 4.55kg, a reduction of 26.3 per cent
  • Eutrophication: (kg PO4-equivalents): 0.072kg to 0.059kg, a reduction of 13.2 per cent
  • Acidification (kg SO2-equivalents): 0.207kg to 0.187kg, a reduction of 9.4 per cent, and
  • Resource depletion (kg Sb-equivalents) 0.0090kg to 0.0083kg, a reduction of 8.3 per cent.

The cut in the climate change figure represents a reduction of 800,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalents by the UK pig industry over this period, according to BPEX.

Explaining how the reductions were achieved, Nigel Penlington, BPEX Environmental Programme Manager, said that much progress had been achieved with the close co-operation of the feed industry.

Pig feed makes the most significant contribution to GHG emissions across the life cycle. Since 2010, he said, feed formulations have changed, with gradual increases in the use of synthetic amino acids and food industry co-products, which have helped better to match the pig’s nutrient requirements at each stage with those supplied in the feed.

The incorporation of home-grown pulses – peas and beans – into pig diets to replace some of the imported (and very costly) soybean meal has also aided progress.

Other contributions to climate change impacts have been made by improved pig housing, reduced electricity consumption and in the management of slurry and manure.

Looking at the different stages of production, the breeding herd has made the most progress in terms of climate change (minus 37 per cent) and resource depletion (minus 24 per cent). Climate change is also the area in which the finishing herd and sow replacements have made their greatest advances – minus 27 per cent and minus 24 per cent, respectively.

Looking Ahead to 2020

Comparing the results achieved do far (2012) with the forecasts for 2020, the following improvements per kilo of pork are expected:

  • Climate change (kg CO2-equivalents): 4.551kg to 4.116kg, a reduction of 10 per cent
  • Eutrophication: (kg PO4-equivalents): 0.062kg to 0.059kg, a reduction of six per cent
  • Acidification (kg SO2-equivalents): 0.187kg to 0.180kg, a reduction of four per cent, and
  • Resource depletion (kg Sb-equivalents) 0.008kg to 0.007kg, a reduction of 11 per cent.

These figures reflect that some of the easier gains have already been made and Mr Penlington said that the acidification impact is likely to be the most challenging target to meet. He stressed that every effort will be made to guard against “pollution swapping”, i.e. decreasing one environmental measure at the expense of another.

Report’s Conclusions

The study builds on the findings of the 2012 LCA Report, which identified potential for improvement in performance efficiencies.

Pig feed makes the greatest contribution across the life cycle but on the assumption that there are no significant changes in the main feed ingredients between now and 2020, the following changes are forecast between 2008 and 2020:

  • Climate change down 33 per cent
  • Eutrophication impact down 18 per cent
  • Acidification impact down 13 per cent, and
  • Resource depletion impact down 19 per cent.

“The industry’s emphasis on improving productivity through better pig health and herd performance have delivered the better-than-expected reductions made so far in the environmental burdens to the farm gate,” states the BPEX report.

It continues that it is feed formulation that has had the greatest impact on the emissions figures but that productivity gains are expected to continue so that progress can be maintained in the coming years.

Further work is in progress with the aims to repeat the assessment every four years and to develop a calculator that will allow modelling of individual enterprises within the whole farm to monitor how any changes might impact the business at the micro and macro scale.

Further Reading

Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

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