Our food consumption is responsible for a major part of the environmental impact related to our total consumption. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a product-oriented tool that can be used efficiently to identify improvement options within the food chain covering a product’s life cycle from cradle to grave, which is very complex for many foods, and to support choices of consumption. The LCA methodology is supported by public standards and public policy measures and has proved its value in business development for more environmentally friendly products. It is an essential feature that the effects of resource use and emissions associated with a product’s life cycle can be aggregated into impact categories (e.g., nonrenewable energy use, land occupation, global warming, acidification, etc.) and further aggregated into overall damage impacts (e.g., impacts on biodiversity, human health, and resource productivity), and these impacts can be even monetarized in a single score. No doubt, uncertainty because of assumptions created increases in the level of aggregation, so a trade-off exists in having a tool for easy communication and a high level of certainty in the assessment. However, a sound theoretical framework for aggregation facilitates the coherent use of the LCA results in different purposes and by different stakeholders. There is a need, nonetheless, to further develop the methodology, including land use impacts resulting from increased demand for food. It has been demonstrated that this inclusion may change the ranking of different foods regarding environmental impact, but above all it will typically enhance differences between foods of animal and plant origin, and particularly regarding the impact on global warming.
Food Engineering Reviews, 2012, Vol 2012, Issue 2, p. 43-60