Life Cycle Assessment

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology was originally used to analyse industrial process chains, but has been adapted over the past 20 years to assess the environmental impacts of agriculture, although to date, it has mainly been employed in arable agriculture and less in livestock farming.

The LCA method systematically analyses production systems to account for all inputs and outputs for a specific product and production system within a specified system boundary. The system boundary is largely dependent on the goal of the study. The reference unit that denotes the useful output is known as the functional unit and has a defined quantity and quality, for example a litre of milk of a defined fat and protein content.

Summary of the steps

Setting the scope and boundaries

In the second step, the scope of the analysis is defined. The scope should address the overall approach used to establish the system boundary, which determines which unit processes are included in the LCA and must reflect the goal of the study.

Collecting the data

This phase involves data collection and modelling of the product (e.g. milk, cheese) system, as well as description and verification of data. This encompasses all data related to processes within the study boundaries. The data must be related to the functional unit. A list of the minimum technical data required to calculate the emission is proposed in Appendix C of IDF Bulletin 479/2015.

Calculating the footprint

The fourth step is calculation of the footprint using all the information gathered in the previous steps.

Evaluating and reporting

It is important that the information is presented correctly and accurately.