The Danish pig industry’s ‘green’ balance sheet shows a net reduction in emissions of 17 per cent per kg pig meat produced since 1992.
The production of feed crops in particular, when nitrogen is transformed by microorganisms in the soil, is a significant source of emissions. In addition, the handling, storage and utilisation of slurry and energy consumption during processing at the slaughterhouse are also contributors to greenhouse gas emission.
On the other hand, replacing artificial fertilizer in crop production with slurry from pigs helps balance the account, i.e. it actually reduces the net level of emissions. This is because artificial fertilizer is produced using significant amounts of fossil fuels. Thus, through improvements in the utilisation of pig slurry at the expense of artificial fertilizer in Danish crop production, the pig industry is helping in counterbalancing emissions from the other stages of the production chain.
Transport of meat
There has been recent public debate about the level of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the transport of food products across borders. The term ‘food miles’ is sometimes used as a shorthand to describe the climate impact of different foods. It has been shown that the distance travelled by particular foods is usually a very unreliable indicator of their overall environmental impact. With regard to pig meat exported from Denmark to England, it can be demonstrated that less than one percent of greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to the transport of the meat between the two countries.
Since the production and use of feed crops is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions of producing pigs, research undertaken by the industry over many years has helped producers adjust their feeding regimes to reduce their environmental impact, by reducing protein content and improving efficient feed conversion.
Other climate-friendly initiatives include conversion of waste from agriculture to biogas, which is now gaining momentum and becoming an even more important source of renewable energy in Denmark. Significant improvements have also been made in minimising energy consumption in the meat industry, and recent developments involve the transformation of slaughterhouse waste into environmentally friendly biodiesel.