Cattle carbon footprint discussed at 9th AICLST conference

13 November 2012

"Carbon footprint of beef cattle hides" was presented by Dr R L Desjardins from the Science and Technology Branch, Agriculture and Agri-Food, Canada to delegates attending the the 9th AICLST conference in Taipei on November 14.
Dr Desjardins delivered the Taiwanese International Leather Association (TILA) lecture where he outlined the impact on greenhouse emissions by cattle and its implications for the tanning industry.

In general conclusion Dr Desjardin said that the general CO2 emissions from cattle had fallen between 1981-2006 largely due to intensive farming methods such as feedlot production of cattle. He also said that dairy cattle had a much higher environmental impact than beef cattle and that the geographic location of where cattle were reared also had a significant impact on the carbon footprint of cattle.

"Most recent estimates of the carbon footprint of beef cattle from cradle to farm for five countries (Canada, US, Brazil, EU and Australia) ranges from 8 to 22kg CO2e per kg live weight with a wide range values between eastern and western Canada for example. On a mass allocation basis at the exit gate of the slaughterhouse in Canada, the carbon footprint of beef cattle meat and beef cattle hide was 12.9kg CO2e per kg of product while on an economic allocation it was 19.6 for meat and 12.3 for the hide. Since the price of cattle products varies considerably over time, economic allocation can result in a variable carbon footprint. For example, the carbon footprint of the cattle hide decreased 6.9kg CO2e per kg hide in 2009 as hide prices decreased", said Desjardin.

The carbon footprint of leather and where the 'system boundaries' are set is a hot topic in the leather industry at the moment and Dr Desjardin's paper was one of a number given at the conference on the topic.

On the previous day, Sarah Swenson, Environmental Manager, PrimeAsia outlined their carbon footprint approach to their leather lines which included a 7% contribution from the hide towards the carbon footprint of leather. PrimeAsia will be rolling out their results to customers over the coming months which highlight the carbon footprint of each of their product lines. PrimeAsia calculate that up to 80% of the CO2e kg from their calculations can be contributed to the hide (and some chemical inputs) towards the carbon footprint of the total.

Meanwhile the IULTCS is developing an ISO standard for measuring the carbon footprint of leather and is hoping to take the measure from the point of slaugher and thus removing the impact of cattle farming from the tanning industry.

The AICLST conference officially closed on November 14 following a number interesting papers. Dr Volkan Candar IULTCS President, praised the excellent organisation by TILA in particular Richard Pai and Professor George Huang of TILA for "raising the bar" in terms of the excellent conference programme, social events and delegate participation.

Dr R L Desjardin

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