Carbon Footprints for Food of Animal Origin: What are the Most Preferable Criteria to Measure Animal Yields?
There are increasing efforts to determine the origin of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities (including food consumption) and to identify, apply and exploit reduction potentials. Low emissions are generally the result of increased efficiency in resource utilization. Considering climate related factors, the emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and laughing gas are summarized to so-called carbon footprints (CF). The CF for food of animal origin such as milk, eggs, meat and fish depend on a number of influencing factors such as animal species, type of production, feeding of animals, animal performance, system boundaries and outputs of production. Milk and egg yields are more clearly defined animal yields or outcomes of production than food from the carcasses of animals. Possible endpoints of growing/slaughter animals are body weight gain, carcass weight gain (warm or cold), meat, edible fractions or edible protein. The production of edible protein of animal origin may be considered as one of the main objectives of animal husbandry in many countries. On the other hand, the efficiency of various lines of production and the CF per product can also be easily compared on the basis of edible protein. The pros and contras of various outputs of animal production under special consideration of edible protein are discussed in the paper.