Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers Focus on Dairy’s Carbon Footprint

03.06.2013
Life-cycle analysis identifies opportunities for emissions reduction

Researchers at the University of Arkansas are attempting to help the U.S. dairy industry decrease its carbon footprint as concentrations of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere reach record levels.

In 2007, Americans consumed approximately 17.4 million metric tons of fluid milk – milk consumed as a drink or with cereal, rather than milk used in dairy products such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream. The dairy industry has set a goal of 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

The U of A researchers’ “cradle-to-grave” life-cycle analysis of milk will provide guidance for producers, processors and others in the dairy supply chain and will help these stakeholders reduce their environmental impact while maintaining long-term viability.

“Based in part on growing consumer awareness of sustainability issues in our food supply chain, the U.S. dairy industry is working to further improve the environmental performance of its production processes and supply chain in a way that is also economically sustainable,” said Greg Thoma, professor of chemical engineering. “Our analysis provides a documented baseline for their improvement efforts. It is a source for understanding the factors that influence environmental impact.”

Thoma and an interdisciplinary team of U of A researchers looked at all facets and stages of milk production, from the fertilizer used to grow the animal’s feed to waste disposal of packaging after consumer use. Specifically, their life-cycle analysis focused on seven areas:
-- farm production and processes
-- farm-to-processor transportation
-- processor operations, packaging and distribution
-- retail operations
-- consumer transportation and storage
-- post-consumer waste management
-- overall supply-chain loss and waste
The researchers found that for every kilogram of milk consumed in the United States per year, 2.05 kilograms of greenhouse gases, on average, are emitted over the entire supply chain to produce, process and distribute that milk. This is equivalent to approximately 17.4 pounds per gallon. The greenhouse gases were measured as carbon dioxide equivalents and included methane, refrigerants and other gases that trap radiation. The largest contributors were feed production, enteric methane – gas emitted by the animal itself – and manure management.

The researchers identified many areas where the industry can reduce impact within feed and milk production, processing and distribution, retail and the supply chain. They focused on farms, where processes for feed production, handling of enteric methane and manure management varied greatly and therefore represent the greatest opportunities for achieving significant reductions.

The researchers suggested widespread nutrient management strategies that link inorganic fertilizer use with the application of manure for crop production. They recommended dry lot and solid storage systems as preferred management strategies, rather than anaerobic lagoons and deep bedding. Methane digesters, which biologically convert manure to methane and capture it as an energy source, should be a high priority for larger farm operations, Thoma said.

“Methane digesters have great potential as a way to capture and utilize methane, which is natural gas, that is otherwise lost to the atmosphere,” he said.

At the processor and distribution level, greater emphasis on truck fleet-fuel usage and consumption of electricity will reduce emissions, the researchers said. Implementing standard energy-efficiency practices focused on refrigeration and compressed-air systems, motors and lighting will also lead to reduction. Likewise, processor plant fuel reductions can be achieved through improved steam systems and continued energy-efficiency improvements in other operating practices.

With packaging, emissions reductions could come from improved bottle designs resulting in less material use. Specifically, changing the bottle cap manufacturing process from injection molding to thermoforming may lower environmental impact. Similar suggestions have already been made for yogurt packaging and containers.

Finally, the researchers recommended a careful examination of trucking transport distances to realize greater optimization and efficiency of routes. They also suggested transport refrigeration systems that use fewer refrigerants.

The U of A researchers – Rick Ulrich, professor of chemical engineering; Darin Nutter, professor of mechanical engineering; Jennie Popp, professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness; and Marty Matlock, professor of biological and agricultural engineering, in addition to Thoma – partnered with researchers at Michigan Technological University. Their study was published as a special issue, “Carbon and Water Footprint of U.S. Milk, From Farm to Table,” of the International Dairy Journal in April.

Thoma is holder of the Bates Teaching Professorship in Chemical Engineering. Ulrich is holder of the Louis Owen Professorship in Chemical Engineering.

CONTACTS:
Greg Thoma, professor, chemical engineering
College of Engineering
479-575-7374, gthoma@uark.edu
Marty Matlock, professor, biological and agricultural engineering
College of Engineering
479-575-2849, mmatlock@uark.edu
Matt McGowan, science and research communications officer
University Relations
479-575-4246, dmcgowa@uark.edu
Follow University of Arkansas research on Twitter @UArkResearch

Matt McGowan | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.uark.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>