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Cutting Environmental Impact of UK Turkey Production

23 October 2014

UK - At an event in London yesterday, 20 October, a new tool to assess the environmental impacts of turkey production was unveiled, paving the way for future reductions, reports Jackie Linden.

The seminar was held to demonstrate the progress so far in quantifying and improving the environmental performance of turkey production and the demonstration of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Tool.

The UK turkey industry wished to improve its efficiency and reduce its environmental impact. In order to do so, it needs to assess the current impacts of turkey enterprises. This should enable identification of input and output activities within the systems that contribute significantly to their efficiency and environmental impact (hot-spots) and have possibilities for improvement.

At the meeting, Professor Ilias Kyriazakis of Newcastle University and Dr Adrian Williams of Cranfield University explained the principles of LCA and how the new tool was developed.

Dr Illka Leinonen [pictured above] of Newcastle University presented some of the results obtained so far, focusing on standard production using toms (males) and hens reared indoors or free-range as well as with the Traditional Farm Fresh turkey markets, which produces birds for Christmas. 

The work reveals that the variations between farms using the same systems are generally bigger than those between systems. Using organic feed tended to increase the environmental impacts.

The new LCA tool can also be used to predict the effects of changes in management, for example, on climate change measures. 

The sector relies heavily on imported protein sources. Experiments on the reliance of home-grown protein sources and co-products were conducted to generate novel data on production efficiency and environmental impact of specific system changes. Other system changes such as novel ways of dealing with manure were also considered.

All these will feed back into a LCA tool that assesses the impact of a product from ‘cradle to grave’, in order to quantify their environmental and economic impacts. This will enable the industry to address specific issues relevant to their business needs and assess the impact of anticipated changes in market trends, policy and regulations.

Dr Leinonen presented some of these results obtained using the new LCA tool. He showed that one measure that shows great promise is to use poultry litter to generate electricity rather than use it as a fertiliser.

He demonstrated that other changes, such as using alternative proteins in the feed, reducing stocking density or increasing slaughter age made relatively small differences to the environmental impact measures.

The 33-month project was co-funded by a grant from the government-backed Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK) and industry.

Project leaders were Jeremy Hall of Bernard Matthews and Professor Ilias Kyriazakis from Newcastle University.

Academic Partners were Newcastle University and Cranfield University and industry partners were Aviagen Turkeys, Bernard Matthews, Faccenda Foods (formerly Cranberry Foods), Kelly Turkeys, AB Agri, DSM Nutritional Products and Evonik, together with the British Poultry Council.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden



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