While livestock production forms one of the pillars of the EU food industry, it faces many societal challenges, like the rising demand for meat protein combined with increasingly stringent environmental regulations and coupled with the falling numbers of young farmers entering the industry. Environmental degradation as a result of harmful aerial releases in the atmosphere can ultimately lead to regional tensions, affecting economic policies and farmers’ income. An agricultural activity is considered to be ecologically sustainable if its polluting emissions and its use of natural resources can be supported in the long term by the natural environment. The first step in the assessment of ecological sustainability is assessment of its environmental impact.
The environmental impact of livestock production has received increasing attention over the last years, because it appears to have a major impact on the environment. Nowadays, there is an increasing interest in product-oriented and life cycle based environmental assessments, because there is a need to evaluate global emissions and impacts from the whole production chain in relation to types and amounts of products consumed. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a generally accepted method to evaluate the environmental impact during the entire life cycle of a product.
The internationally-standardized LCA method is expected to be highly effective for evaluations, and for assessing all the relevant environmental impacts at every stage in the life cycle of a product or activity. LCA provides a systematic way to quantify the environmental impacts of products or services from cradle to grave, thus allowing estimation of the environmental impacts related to the consumption/use of different products. At the same time, this tool can efficiently be used to identify hot spots and, thereby, improvement options in relation to environmental impacts associated with a certain product. Aim of the STSM was to use the LCA method in order to make an environmental assessment of livestock housing systems and emission reduction technologies.