This study compares a life cycle assessment (LCA) of pork production in the Western Cape with pork production in Flanders. The objectives of this study were to map and quantify the environmental impacts of producing pork in the Western Cape and exporting it to Antwerp in Flanders with the environmental impacts of producing pork in Flanders and delivering it to the same location. The impact categories included are (i) global warming potential (GWP), (ii) eutrophication potential, (iii) acidification potential, and (iv) energy use. By pointing out weak points in the different environmental impact categories, suggestions are made to lower the environmental burdens of pork production.
Four main activities of the pork production chain were covered by the LCA, namely: (i) the feed provision activity, which includes the production of raw materials and feed, (ii) the pig farming activity, (iii) the slaughter house activity and (iv) the slurry (treatment) activity. An additional (v) pork shipping activity was added in the case of the Western Cape pork chain. A cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment was carried out, with a functional unit (FU) of one kg of Western Cape or Flemish pork (carcass weight) delivered to the distribution centre in Antwerp.
Flemish GWP, eutrophication potential, acidification potential and energy use are 56%, 65%, 62% and 59% respectively of the Western Cape equivalents. The exporting of pork accounts for less than 8% of environmental impacts in all impact categories.
Potential exists in the Western Cape to compete on an environmental par when impacts are measured in terms of a per-area unit. It is therefore recommended that for future comparative South African-European LCA studies of pork or other intensive livestock or poultry production chains, an FU of one kg meat as well as an area unit be used when measuring total eutrophication and acidification impacts.