Robbie Andrew

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Climate Footprints of Norwegian Dairy and Meat


This report reviews the current literature on meat, milk and dairy, with a special focus on Norway. To understand differences in reported emissions, the report explains the variation in methodological approaches such as division over co-products, functional unit selection, and system boundaries.

Cattle meat, milk and dairy emissions are analyzed and compared with selected other foods that could act as a replacement, according to the various system boundaries used in the studies. Emissions from meat and dairy in Norway are compared with the Nordics and west-Europe, and other regions where relevant. Comparisons are also made between different production systems, including conventional and organic, intensive and extensive, and beef production from different types of cows. Finally, the report analyses the relative impacts of the different life cycle stages of meat and milk production and consumption. In a short section, it highlights some of the potentials for change of milk and meat impacts on the climate that emerged from the literature.

Key findings summarize emissions for meat from dairy cows (around 19,5 kg CO2 equivalents per kg product), young bulls (around 19 kg CO2eq/kg), suckler cows (around 30 kg CO2eq/kg) and milk (around 1,2 CO2eq/kg). Norway's emissions from combined meat-milk production are higher than in other Nordic and Western European countries, mainly because other countries have higher yields and lower methane emissions. Cattle meat and milk emit more than potential alternatives. Use of functional units and comparison between products depends on the stakeholders and context for comparison.

In Norwegian meat and milk production, on-farm processes play by far the largest role, with around 78% of the emissions. Pre-farm stages contribute 22%. Most, around 38%, come from methane from ruminant digestion. Importantly, few if any studies present allocations over the full life cycle, which means that proportions for pre-, on-and post-farm emissions may change significantly when including all life cycle stages. Finally, the report finds no clear differences between conventional and organic meat and milk production in terms of climate impact, while intensive and extensive systems both have large mitigation potential.

Calculate your own Footprint


The Ecological Footprint is an indicator of your personal impact on the planet. Use this simple calculator, specially calibrated to New Zealand data, to estimate your own personal footprint. Find out what the biggest contributors are! Learn more »

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