November 6, 2013
US egg production's greenhouse gas emissions down 71%
Since 1930, US egg production has increased but the greenhouse gas emissions associated with egg production have declined by over 71% over that time period.
According to research by the Egg Industry Centre, in 2010, a kilogramme (kg) of eggs produced 2.1 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions compared to 7.2 kg of CO2e in 1960.
The improvements are attributable to increased feed efficiency, advancements in hen housing and manure management. These advancements also mean that farms now use less water and energy on a daily basis, the research says.
Feed efficiency plays a key role in reducing environmental impacts. Because of advancements in nutrition and bird breeding, young hens now require 48% less food during the rearing period than they did in 1960 and the laying hens have 42% better feed conversion. Report says that using 1960 technology to produce the 2010 egg supply would have required 78 million more hens, 1.3 million more acres of corn and 1.8 million more acres of soy.
The vast majority of manure from laying hens is recycled into crop production, providing nutrients for plants, contributing to healthy soils, saving energy and reducing commercial fertiliser use.
Improved building ventilation in hen housing, temperature control, better lighting and a more secure housing environment, have helped to ensure that hens are protected from disease-carrying wildlife, as well as lowering energy and water consumption. These techniques have been widely adopted by egg farmers across the country, leading to healthier hens with lower mortality and higher rates of egg production, according to the Egg Industry Centre.
According to a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report released in September, greenhouse gas emissions generated by the livestock sector could be slashed by as much as 30% using existing technology and best practices.
The FAO said that emissions can be cut by using energy-saving equipment and improving feed digestibility and feed practices, which reduces methane production during digestion. Ranchers and farmers can cut emissions by switching to low-emission intensity feeds and reducing the share of herds dedicated to maintenance and not production, the report says.