Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of livestock production. The applicability of IPCC and PEFCR methods to Finnish production

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

L6, OP-Pohjola auditorium, Linnanmaa (Pentti Kaiteran katu 1)

Topic of the dissertation

Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of livestock production. The applicability of IPCC and PEFCR methods to Finnish production

Doctoral candidate

Master of Science Sanna Hietala

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Technology, Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering

Subject of study

Environmental Engineering


Reader (associate professor) Michael MacLeod, Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), Edinburgh


Professor Eva Pongrácz, University of Oulu

Add event to calendar

Environmental impact assessment of livestock production with life cycle assessment approach

Doctoral research investigated environmental impacts of Finnish livestock production

The doctoral research of researcher Sanna Hietala from Natural Resources Institute Finland investigated the environmental impacts of domestic livestock products – beef, pork, broiler chicken and organic milk – and the feeds most typically used in monogastric production. According to the study, the precise determination of product-specific environmental impacts helps to direct emission mitigation measures correctly and to develop production in an environmentally sustainable direction.

The environmental consequences of food production, especially livestock production, are well acknowledged. However, the environmental impacts of different food products vary, also within product groups. The main objective in this thesis was to gain an understanding of the current level of environmental impacts of the Finnish livestock products and to evaluate the suitability of life cycle assessment methods for investigating the environmental sustainability of livestock products.

In addition to the climate impact, i.e. the carbon footprint, the eutrophication, acidification and water scarcity impacts were evaluated for the products in varying combinations. The research was based on vast product chain specific data collected from the supply chains.

Precise prediction models are important in assessing environmental impacts

The importance of more sensitive methods for prediction dinitrogen oxide from crop cultivation and methane from enteric fermentation became evident in assessing climate change impact of beef.

– This allowed diet composition to be included in more detail, which was also reflected in the results,
increasing resolution in mitigation design and supporting mitigation efforts, Sanna Hietala states.

The IPCC and PEF methods differed in how they included dinitrogen oxide emissions in the assessment. It was observed that especially for Finland, where the share of cultivated organic peat land is large, dinitrogen oxide emissions should be included with precise methods for the best accuracy. Yet, it was found mainly uncontroversial to use either of the methods, as the magnitude of the results and the most important life cycle stages remained same with both methods in most cases.

Different livestock products’ environmental impacts in numbers:

Finnish beef had an average climate impact of 26.1 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents (kg CO2 eq.) per kg CW, with specific methods for enteric fermentation and dinitrogen oxide from cultivation. With more standardised IPCC-based NIR methods, the average climate change impact for Finnish beef was 21.9 kg CO2 eq. per kg CW.

Finnish broiler chicken resulted for climate change impact with European Commission’s PEF methods 2.37 kg CO2 eq. per kg CW, including LUC, which was 0.55 kg CO2 eq. per kg CW.
Finnish pork resulted with PEF methods 3.6 kg CO2 eq. per kg CW, including LUC, which was 0.13 kg CO2 eq. per kg CW.

Organic dairy was assessed for a selection of European farms with IPCC methods and the average of included farms was 1.32 kg CO2 eq. per kg ECM.

Finnish broiler chicken resulted with water scarcity impact of 0.54 m3 eq. per kg CW and Finnish pork 0.69 m3 eq. per kg CW.

Doctoral research supports sustainability work also in EU level

Various policies, initiatives, and strategies in Europe and Finland especially aim for the mitigation of climate change impacts. All the publications in this thesis serve the targets of sustainable development. Of the sustainability targets, the aim to ensure sustainable food production systems is in the focus of the thesis. The expectation is to have such agricultural practices that increase productivity whilst maintain ecosystems and strengthen the capacity to adapt to climate change related extreme events. In addition, the thesis supports sustainable management of natural resources, which is aided by measuring impacts and directing the mitigation efforts accordingly.
Last updated: 23.1.2024