Environmental Improvments of the Post-Farm Dairy Chain: Production Management by Systems Analysis Methods

Abstract: The production of dairy products is becoming more centralised at the same time as the number of different products is steadily increasing. In this thesis. the environmental impact of such ongoing development trends in the post-farm dairy chain was evaluated and improvements were suggested. Methods for production management and environmental systems analysis (life cycle assessment, material flow analysis and substance flow analysis) were combined and used in the evaluations. A first assessment of potential future developments in the dairy chain showed that the least preferable scenario from an environmental point of view was the one most similar to trends in the dairy chain of today. Subsequent investigations revealed the same result. Large dairy units with long distance transports lead to a higher environmental impact than small dairy units. On the other hand, small dairy units are those for which the environmental impact is affected the most by the rising variety of cultured products. The changed consumption patterns towards more cultured products and cheese, instead of milk, cause an increased environmental impact with regard to the cultured products, whereas for cheese no clear effect was found. To enable counteraction of negative environmental effects of increased product variety, a method to sequence the production of cultured dairy products with as little environmental impact as possible was developed. The method combines production management methods and environmental systems analysis. A heuristic solution to the sequencing problem was developed and, to the extent possible, validated with an optimisation. The method was used in a case study which revealed not only the importance of a waste minimised sequence but also that of a low production frequency. Life cycle assessment was combined with an actor analysis to examine the potential of the actors in the post-farm chain (dairy, retailer and consumer) to decrease the environmental impact of dairy products. Cutting down waste of product proved to be an effective way to reduce environmental consequences. Saving energy and improving transport patterns gave in general smaller reductions. Choosing organic products decreased most environmental categories at the expense of increased eutrophication.

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