Around the world, there has been a movement towards organic, local and traditional oods. Youmight expect that the shoppers at Whole Foods, lling their baskets with organically producedood, are our brightest hope or achieving a sustainable planet. While it may seem comorting to believe that organically produced ood can help mitigate environmental damage and helpshit the world towards a more sustainable ood system, that belie is not correct when it comes to eggs.
Studies around the world have ound that organic and ree-range eggs have a larger carbon ootprint than eggs produced in a cage system, due primarily to lower productivity and higher eed consumption.
How to make all agriculture more sustainable is the most important question or armers andconsumers, not the more limited issue o whether organic ood is better or worse or theenvironment.
Making egg production more sustainable should start with eed and the eed conversion rate.Feed accounts or 76 percent o greenhouse gas emissions and 92 percent o the ecologicalootprint associated with the poultry industry. Much o this environmental impact is due to theuse o chemical ertilizer, which is notably absent rom the production o organic poultry eed.However, even though organic layers eat eed that is much less energy-intensive, they consumemore eed overall and produce ewer eggs than their non-organic counterparts. How do weweigh the pros and cons o organic eed production (more environmentally riendly eed, but alsoa larger quantity required) against industrial production (less environmentally riendly eed, but alower quantity required)?Lie Cycle AssessmentScientists have come up with a solution called Lie Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is the mostholistic method o evaluating the environmental cost o a product or industry over a period oanywhere rom 50 years to 500 years. This approach is eective because it looks beyond thedirect environmental impact o an activity, and takes into account damage caused by interrelatedsupporting activities.
True long-term sustainability, in the words o World Wildlie Fund expertJason Clay, means looking beyond “organic” marketing claims and“guring out how to produce more with less land, less water and lesspollution, so we won’t be the only species let living on this planet.”