Egg industry improves environmental footprint

Lifecycle assessment finds modern egg production practices has reduced industry's environmental impact compared to 50 years ago.

According to the results of a new study, the U.S. egg industry's introduction of new technologies and production practices over the last 50 years has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the industry's environmental footprint, even given today's higher levels of egg production.

The study quantified the environmental footprint of the U.S. egg industry's egg production supply chains in 2010 versus those in 1960. The researchers looked at changes in what they term "foreground" — e.g., hen performance — and "background" — e.g., fertilizer production — variables that contribute to the industry's environmental impact.

The findings provide "strong validation" for the effectiveness of modern egg production techniques in reducing the industry's impact on the environment, an announcement said.

On a per-kilogram of eggs produced basis, the environmental footprint of the U.S. egg industry in 2010 versus 1960 was:

* 71% lower in greenhouse gas emissions;

* 71% lower in eutrophying emissions, and

* 65% lower in acidifying emissions.

While table egg production was 30% higher in 2010 than 50 years prior, the study found that the same key environmental impact factors were still sharply lower in 2010, even on an absolute basis.

Specifically, the U.S. egg industry in 2010, as compared with 1960, had a total environmental footprint that was:

* 63% lower in greenhouse gas emissions;

* 63% lower in eutrophying emissions, and

* 54% lower in acidifying emissions.

The researchers determined that improvements in three key areas were responsible for the above reductions: feed efficiency, feed composition and manure management.

The results will be published in the February Poultry Science as well as being the topic of a presentation at the International Production & Processing Expo Jan. 29 in Atlanta, Ga.

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