The egg industry has been identified as a major contributor of greenhouse gases in a new report published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. Researchers at the University of Oviedo used a poultry farm in Austria with 55,000 chickens and a yield of 13 million eggs per year as the example for research.
In the study, the effects of intensive egg production were measured in 18 categories, including ozone depletion, terrestrial acidification, land occupation, human toxicity and climate change. Amanda Laca, a researcher at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Technology from University of Oviedo said: “The most affected have been the transformation of the natural earth and the water and land toxicity.”
One of the most harmful categories that were identified was the feed production for egg-laying hens, and soybeans account for the majority of food that is consumed by egg-laying hens. A study conducted by the Department of Animal Science at the University for Development Studies in Ghana found that “Of all plant protein sources, soybean cultivation alone occupies most land needed for production of animal products.”
The amount of soybeans produced for feed for hens contributes to the environmental impact of egg production, ranking it high in terms of the environmental impact of the egg industry. Another factor is the disposable attitude associated to the egg industry, with hens being replaced at only one to two years of age.
The packaging used on eggs is another factor that contributes to the environmental impact of the egg industry, with it being considered harmful to the environment. Laca stated that the average carbon footprint of one dozen eggs is 2.7kg of carbon dioxide equivalent which is “a value similar to other basic foods of animal origin such as milk and much lower than that of veal, pork, or lamb.”