Environmental impact of eggs | Health and Nutrition

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Eggs, a possible response to environmental issues

The now famous report Eat-Lancet published in January 2019 considers, like many other scientific consensuses, the regular consumption of eggs as part of the optimal recommendations to reconcile both environmental and nutritional issues, especially in populations with high rates of undernourished children and if it is part of an adapted breeding policy1.2.

Low greenhouse gas emissions

A dozen eggs emit approximately 2.5 kg Eq CO2 (i.e., based on weight, about 10 times less than a kilo of beef from intensive breeding and fed with oilseed meals), it being understood that the dietary model of hens and their condition of breeding can strongly impact these figures, in particular the share of palm oil and soybeans imported3–5. If we consider GHG emissions according to the nutritional density and not the weight of the food, the consumption of eggs appears even more advantageous.6. It should be noted that, although contradictory with the living conditions of the hens, rearing on the ground (outside a cage but indoors, without access to daylight, 9 hens / m2) requires less vegetable protein than rearing in the open. air with the methods commonly used by the poultry industry (1.25 kg of vegetable protein consumable by humans per kg of egg protein vs. 1.33)7. Production and transport of feed for chickens contributes around 70% of the global warming potential, while manure management accounts for 40% and 60% of the potential for eutrophication and acidification, respectively.8. The use of substitute food ingredients for soy (the latter often coming from South America), such as protein crops, algae (including spirulina), worms, food waste and agricultural by-products grown locally, according to an English study, would reduce the carbon footprint of eggs by 45%3. According to the association Blue-White-Heart, the proposed diet would also help reduce the environmental footprint by around 25%. Improved poultry housing and a better manure management strategy (for both sales and energy production) would increase the gain by an additional 7%.

Of course, combining it with an ethical policy for the management of cull hens and the promotion of extensive breeding would constitute a multidimensional virtuous circle.9.

Raise your chickens!

Moreover, no need to have large spaces to raise a few hens and thus benefit from fresh eggs rich in omega 3! If you are sensitive to this approach, there are several associations allowing cull hens to be recovered, like the project adopt 1 hen initiated by the creators of the brand Henhouse offering eggs from ethical breeding (hens left alive after 18 months, incubation only of female embryos, no trimming at birth). Many other sites also offer great advice such as hens club or sissy. If you are a fan of permaculture, you can find out here how to create your chicken coop.

Do you want to know the environmental impact of your own food? Find out by doing your EvoNutri nutritional assessment.

Anthony Berthou

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(3) Taylor, RC; Omed, H .; Edwards-Jones, G. The greenhouse emissions footprint of free-range eggs. Poult. Sci. 2014, 93 (1), 231-237. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2013-03489.

(4) Zhao, Y .; Shepherd, TA; Li, H .; Xin, H. Environmental Assessment of Three Egg Production Systems – Part I: Monitoring System and Indoor Air Quality. Poult. Sci. 2015, 94 (3), 518-533. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps/peu076.

(5) Poore, J .; Nemecek, T. Reducing the Environmental Impacts of Foods by Producers and Consumers. Science 2018, 360 (6392), 987–992. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaq0216.

(6) Old, F .; Soler, L.-G .; Touazi, D .; Darmon, N. High nutritional quality is not associated with low greenhouse gas emissions in the self-selected diets of French adults. A m. J. Clin. Nutr. 2013, 97 (3), 569-583. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.112.035105.

(7) Guillevic, M .; Dourmad, J.-Y .; Mourot, J .; Schmitt, B .; Weill, P. The plant footprint of human consumption of animal protein. / data / reviews / 17667305 / v13i51 / S176673051730075X / 2017.

(8) Leinonen, I .; Kyriazakis, I. How can we improve the environmental sustainability of poultry production? Proc. Nutr. Soc. 2016, 75 (3), 265-273. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116000094.

(9) Alders, RG; Dumas, SE; Rukambile, E .; Magoke, G .; Maulaga, W .; Jong, J .; Costa, R. Family poultry farming: multiple roles, systems, challenges and options for sustainable contributions to household nutritional security through a planetary health lens. Matern. Child. Nutr. 2018, 14 Suppl 3, e12668. https://doi.org/10.1111/mcn.12668.