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Framework for calculating fossil fuel use in livestock systems

Intensification of animal production systems has required external inputs in order to achieve the high yields expected from the investment on facilities, equipment and breeding stock.

In contrast to integrated mixed farming where most of the resources including energy used to come from the farm itself, intensive production requires a variety of outside inputs, which in one way or another have required fossil fuels.

Fossil energy is used for the production of feeds (land preparation, fertilizers, pesticides, harvesting, drying, etc.), their bulk transport (rail and/or sea freight), storage (ventilation), and processing (milling, mixing, extrusion, pelleting, etc.) and their distribution to individual farms.

Once on the farm, and depending on location (as in the climate), season of the year and building facilities, more fossil energy is needed for the movement of feeds from the storage to the animal pens; for control of the thermal environment (cooling, heating or ventilation); and for animal waste collection and treatment (solid separation, aerobic fermentation, drying, land applications, etc.).

Transport of products (meat animals to abattoirs, milk to processing plants, eggs to storage), processing (slaughtering, pasteurization, manufacture of dairy products), storage and refrigerated transport also require fossil fuels.

Finally, the distribution to the consumer and the final cooking process may also require expenditures of fossil fuels.

The objective of the present analysis was to establish a methodology for calculation of direct and indirect consumption of fossil fuels for the various steps required for the production, processing, marketing and cooking of products of animal origin.

This methodology can be used to calculate (fossil) energy costs of animal products in various systems.

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