Carbon Footprint of Milk Production
Authors: Pampi Paul and Mukesh Kumar
Dairy Extension Division, ICAR-NDRI, Karnal-132001


Climate change has become biggest environmental and developmental challenge. IPCC, 2007 revealed that Agriculture contributes about 13.5% of global emission. In case of India INCCA, 2007 reported that agriculture contributes 18 percent of the total GHG emission. Further FAO, 2006 revealed that the agriculture animal sector is responsible for approximately 18 percent or nearly one-fifth of human induced GHGs emissions. Recently In 2014 FAO estimated that emissions from agriculture, forestry and fisheries have nearly doubled over the past fifty years and could increase an additional 30 percent by 2050 without greater efforts to reduce them. Based on the data from 1990 to 2012 FAOSTAT revealed that among all the continents Asia is leading with 42.7 percent in case of GHGs emission. In this context of emission of GHGs the concept of carbon footprint come.The Carbon Footprint (CF) is a measure of the total amount of CO2 emissions that is directly and indirectly caused by an activity or is accumulated over the life stages of a product (Wiedmann and Minx, 2007). Carbon foot print is a footprint of various activities which leads to emission of Green House Gases (GHGs). Thus, it is a measure of the GHGs and is measured in terms of CO2 Equivalent.


The use of the term "footprint" is to describe the impact of industrial production or consumption activities. It was first developed by planners at the University of British Columbia (Wackernagel and Rees, 1996). The term "carbon footprint" originated from the ecological footprint concept. A carbon footprint focuses on processes and practices related to the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs). In 2007, carbon footprint was used as a measure of carbon emissions to develop the energy plan for City of Lynnwood, Washington. Carbon footprints are much more specific than ecological footprints since they measure direct emissions of gases that cause climate change into the atmosphere. The term carbon footprint is commonly used to describe the total amount of CO2 and other GHGs emissions through the life cycle of the product (Carbon trust, 2008; Wiedmann and Minx, 2007)


Agriculture today is one of the main reasons why three planetary boundaries (climate change, biodiversity loss and changes in the global nitrogen cycle) have already been transgressed (Rockstromer et al., 2009). The most important GHGs generated by dairy industry or milk production are methane(CH4), nitrous oxide(N2O), carbon dioxide(CO2) and some refrigerants such as HFCs and CFCs (Vora, 2010). The major source of methane(CH4) emission is due to enteric fermentation of ruminant animals (Hospido, 2005). Nitrous oxide (N2O) emission is due to production and use of fertilizer, manure storage. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission occurs due to use of energy at farm level as well as processing level (Thomasen et al., 2008). Dairy products are associated with GHGs emissions so as the case for almost all the food products. The demand for dairy products is predicted to be double by 2050 which requires higher production of milk and energy for processing and manufacture of different products. Therefore, it is very important to increase the productivity of our milch animals and to process the milk with minimum use of energy. FAO,2010 work in global level as in ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options’ and reported that average global emissions from milk production, processing and transport is estimated to be 2.4kg CO2 eq. per kg of fat and protein corrected milk (FPCM) at farm gate level. IPCC, 2007 also reported that emissions from agriculture are primarily due to methane emission from enteric fermentation in ruminants (63%) and rice fields (21%), nitrous oxide from application of N through manure and fertilizer to agricultural soil (13%) and manure management and burning of crop residue (2.7%).


Importance of calculating carbon footprint has listed by ISO,2006 a,b
1. Identification of sources and reduction of GHGs emission
2. Creating a bench mark to monitor
3. Empowering consumers to select process which helps to lower carbon footprint
4. Identifying cost saving opportunities
5. To prepare possible future effects and national or international policy initiatives
6. Integrating GHG emission issue into decision making
7. Demonstrating environmental responsibility leadership to both stakeholders and consumers.


An individual's, nations, or organization's carbon footprint can be measured by undertaking a GHG emissions assessment or other calculative activities denoted as carbon accounting. Once the size of a carbon footprint is known, a strategy can be devised to reduce it, e.g. by technological developments, better process and product management, changed Green Public or Private Procurement (GPP), carbon capture, consumption strategies, carbon offsetting and others. Lifecycle assessment (LCA) is well known method of estimation of carbon footprint. LCA can be used to assess the environmental impacts of a product under consideration of the related production processes and the impacts of those various processes connected to the product along the whole production chain. Relevant guidelines by the International Standard Organization (ISO) are- ISO 14040:2006 " Environmental management " LCA principles and framework- ISO 14044:2006 " Environmental management " LCA requirements and guidelines.


The dairy sector need to reduce it footprint for per kg milk production and already has a methodology that will allow the calculation of carbon footprint of different dairy products. The International Dairy Federation wanted to build a tool to help the dairy sector to identify, quantify and evaluate emissions. In this era of increasing threats of climatic change need to reduce carbon footprint for a product as much as possible.


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About Author / Additional Info:
Authors are Ph.D. scholar in Dairy Extension Division, ICAR-National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal-132001 Haryana (India).