Vöner compares the carbon footprint of its plant-based Vöner Burger product in its advertising campaign to the carbon footprint of a reference product, a burger patty made from traditional ground meat. Read the article to learn how the carbon footprint comparison behind the campaign was conducted.
How was the carbon footprint presented in the advertising campaign calculated?
The carbon footprint of Vöner Burger was calculated using a carbon footprint calculator designed for product-specific assessments by Biocode. The calculation methods of the tool are based on ISO standards for life cycle assessment and carbon footprint calculation, GHG Protocol guidelines, IPCC reports, and generally applied life cycle assessment methods.
When determining the carbon footprint, various gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) are considered, and their climate-warming effects are expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). The conducted carbon footprint calculation has estimated the products’ fossil carbon footprint. Fossil emissions contribute to the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere upon their release. The evaluation period for assessing the impacts is the 100-year warming effect on climate.
The assessment of the products is done in stages of the life cycle (from raw material production to the factory gate). By breaking down the carbon footprint into stages, it becomes easier to assess emission reduction opportunities and target actions towards different life cycle stages. For example, if the assessment reveals a significant climate impact from packaging, efforts can be made to develop packaging methods in a more climate-friendly direction.
The calculation results provide an estimate of the product’s climate-warming impact per kilogram produced (kg CO2e/kg) and the total emissions generated during the product’s manufacturing (kg CO2e).
How was the carbon footprint comparison carried out in practice
The reference product chosen was a beef burger patty. Since different types of ground meat are used in beef burger patty production, this was also taken into account in the calculations. Therefore, the assessment included :
- a beef patty (100%) and
- a pork-beef patty (60% and 40%).
When determining the carbon footprint, the same life cycle stages (system boundaries) were considered for both Vöner Burger and the reference patty, and the same calculation tool was utilized. Detailed production data provided by the customer were used for Vöner Burger, while literature sources were relied upon for the reference patty.
Important assumptions made include the use of previous literature estimates for the characteristics of domestic meat in the calculation of the reference patty. Energy consumption during processing was based on literature values, and assumptions regarding packaging materials were made by taking examples from various retail product packaging.
Remember: When comparing the carbon footprints, the same life cycle stages (system boundaries) and methodology must be used in both of the product LCA’s.
How accurate is the comparison?
Biocode’s experts specialize in assessing the carbon footprint of food products and have developed dedicated calculation tools for this purpose. The calculation tools are based on internationally accepted guidelines, research findings, and standards. The tools are continuously updated as research and scientific knowledge progress.
Carbon footprint assessment is, by its nature, an estimation. The outcome can be influenced by the availability of input data and the chosen system boundaries for the assessed product. For example, the decision to change the functional unit from the product mass (kilograms of product) to a nutritional aspect such as protein content (kilograms of protein) can impact the final comparison result. Due to the scope of the work, the comparison focused on the commonly used functional unit of product mass (kilograms of product).
Since the reference product is designed to represent a general meat product and is based on assumptions and generalizations, the analysis focuses on order of magnitude and differences observed in different life cycle stages rather than precise decimal values.
The calculation results support previous research on the topic, which generally suggests that meat products cause more greenhouse gas emissions on average compared to plant-based products. However, there can be significant variations in the production of different plant-based and meat products, and Biocode recommends consumers and food industry operators to carefully examine the various alternatives and production methods of food products.