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One Easter egg: how much emission is that?

Easter is just around the corner. It is the time of year when we traditionally present a boiled egg on our breakfast table. But what about the CO2e emissions from such an egg? That was a question that Udea, an organic food wholesaler, wanted to see answered. As part of Topsector Logistiek’s Carbon Added Accounting project, they worked out the total CO2e emissions of their organic and biodynamic egg supply chains, from feed to shop shelf. What was one of the insights they gained? ‘When you go about it the right way as a farmer, you will have a positive impact on emissions.’

How do you address Scope 3 emissions?

‘As a company, we prefer to see our products have a positive impact on emissions,’ says Steven IJzerman, quality manager at Udea. ‘Reducing our carbon emissions is not just something we have to do because of EU laws and regulations, it is something we want to do. There is currently a lot of focus on the emissions farmers produce. You hear people say that we should eat more plant-based foods. But how big is the impact of, for example, our egg supply chains really? And what part of the supply chain produces most of the emissions? We had no idea, but you need that knowledge to know what opportunities there are and to make improvements. Therefore, we wanted to gain experience in addressing Scope 3, but that is rather complicated. How do you go about it? This was why we decided to take part in Topsector Logistiek’s Carbon Added Accounting pilot and work out the total CO2e emissions from our organic and biodynamic egg supply chains. From feed to shop shelf.’

Real data from across the entire supply chain.

Steven: ‘On this project, we worked closely together with Topsector Logistiek and Districon. This latter party was commissioned by Topsector Logistiek to calculate all our data. It was up to us to collect all the relevant data from within our company and from our partners in the supply chain. This was real data, no assumptions or averages. Luckily, we have always maintained close contact with our suppliers and business partners, so they were open to it.

Still, it turned out to be rather complex. It already gets complicated when you have to decide where the supply chain ends. We opted to stop at poultry farmers this time, but they, too, get their chicks from somewhere. And these suppliers also need feed and also use electricity. It’s basically endless.’
For this particular project, a decision was made to restrict the supply chain to feed suppliers, organic and biodynamic poultry farmers, egg wholesalers, Udea distribution centres, and Udea stores, including transport between these various parties.

Finding solutions

‘We worked closely together with all parties involved. They were all willing to free up time for it and genuinely found it interesting. There was great commitment. And yet, it was a lot of work to figure everything out. To get clarity on how to obtain specific information on an egg and how to capture that information. That can be a bottleneck. How much of the carbon emissions of a distribution centre or shop, for example, can be attributed to an egg?  How do you calculate that? This means you really have to go deep and find solutions. We have, for example, worked out how much shelf space each shop has and what percentage of that is used by our organic and biodynamic eggs. By offsetting that percentage against gas consumption, for example, we were able to allocate emissions very specifically.’

Positive impact of poultry farmers

Since Districon is currently in the process of putting the finishing touches to the calculations, we cannot share the exact emissions per egg at this point. The overall picture, however, is clear. A biodynamic egg probably produces fewer emissions than an organic egg. And according to the provisional calculations, both types of egg produce fewer CO2e emissions than free-range eggs. ‘The main insight we have gained is that when a farmer goes about it the right way, they will have a positive impact on emissions,’ says Steven. ‘By planting trees on their farms, for example, poultry farmers can capture CO2e emissions.’ All our farmers, both organic and biodynamic farmers, had already done that. Having more trees on a farm is also nice for the chickens, because they are animals that originally lived in forests. The positive impact is the greatest at biodynamic farmers, as they grow their own feed and use poultry manure from their own farm for that. They work in a circular way, and they have neither feed supplies nor manure disposal, which makes a huge difference. This makes the carbon footprint of a biodynamic egg extremely small.’

Working on a local scale makes all the difference

Contrary to what you might expect, the greatest environmental impact does not come from poultry farms. Not even transport within the supply chain has the biggest carbon footprint. It is the feed supplier that has the greatest impact. ‘Part of the feed is procured in India and has to shipped to the Netherlands. That’s what drives up the impact,’ says Steven.
‘I’m really pleased with these insights, because they confirm the great value of organic and biodynamic agriculture. By working more on a local scale, by growing feed locally, you see that you can really make a difference.
We want to share these verifiable insights with others. Therefore, we want to keep engaging on this topic, on how we can become even more sustainable. Perhaps not every farmer is able to meet the criteria for a biodynamic quality mark, but if you work more on a local scale, with transparent, short supply chains, you can still achieve a lot.’

Carbon Added Accounting provides instant insight

What was it like to use the Carbon Added Accounting method in practice? ‘Collecting all the data is tricky, but once you have all the data, it is easy to load into the system. It instantly gives you a clear picture, providing a visual of how the emissions are spread over the entire supply chain: over the agricultural part and the transport and over the warehousing and shops.
The system is also easy to repeat. It is easy to add another egg supplier or replace a supermarket, following which you quickly get a good idea of the consequences of such modifications. We looked at egg supply chains this time, but we could also have chosen meat supply chains.’

Scope 3 compliance

‘We will definitely keep using Carbon Added Accounting, although we still have to assess in what form we will do that. It is, without doubt, a good way to render account and comply with Scope 3 requirements, but it is too intensive to do for all our 9,000 products. This was a great first step, and we will now consider what steps to take next. Will we take a broader approach by including more products or will we zoom in on specific products? We are currently still in the process of figuring this out. If anyone has any ideas, we’d love to hear them. Please do contact us!”


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