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:
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:
Matt McGowan | Newswise
Energy crop production on conservation lands may not boost greenhouse gases
13.03.2017 | Penn State
How nature creates forest diversity
07.03.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy