Concerning life cycle as a process of product’s creating, using and disposing, I choose milk as a product to analyze. As the consumers, we usually know the product on its last stage when we find it in supermarkets. However, milk like every other food product has a long range of transformation. Life cycle is divided into a number of relevant flows needed for production.
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Life cycle can apply to the particular brand or to the product’s category. In case of milk, life cycle includes several stages that will be considered below. It is obvious that the environmental impact on milk production is very high due to the specific of its life cycle. Using the modern electrical technologies and fertilizers, the dairy farms consume a lot of resources and have a significant influence on the environment.
The environmental impact on life cycle of milk can be considered as a significant issue related to development of national agricultural sector. Every dairy farm uses its own methods of environmental management. According to Barber and Halbach, “the major impacts to the environment occur during the pasture production phase” (Barber & Halbach).
This situation occurs due to the use of modern technologies depended on electricity and fertilizers that affect cow’s health. Besides, it is impossible to overestimate the impact on climate changes. Cows produce the methane outputs that go to the atmosphere.
Although this issue seems inessential, the mass product of milk has a significant influence. As the commonly used food, milk has a very high volume of production. Therefore, this position can be considered as a hot-spot of the environmental impact of the milk production.
As the most important stage of milk life cycle, cow population requires the special attitude and the use of a number of technologies (The Global Dairy Agenda for Action, 2012). Animal feeding operation generates the manure that contains the nitrous oxide. This process leads to the water and air pollution. Each kilogram of milk can be compared with 10 liters of water needed for feeding and cleaning.
In order to increase the daily milk production, farms use the corn and soy, feeding cows these cheap raw materials. However, naturally cows have to eat grass and the use of corn and soy reduces the milk production. Therefore, farmers use the antibiotic injections. Obviously, such method can be reflected on the cow health and affect the quality of milk.
Moreover, the method of treatment cow population with pesticides in order to protect them from various lice and flies is very popular among the farmers. The use of such chemical substances pollutes not only the environment. Treating cows with hormones, farmers increase the level of cancer risks among the milk consumers.
Moreover, each stage of milk production involves trade-offs due to the close relation of the resources’ consumption and the total value of the product. Thus, the more energy and resources dairy farms use the higher total price of the milk they obtain. In this case, the terminal product seems less attractive. From the other side, farms try to find the different ways of reduction of the total value.
Therefore, the cheapest product may have hidden aspects of the low potential for reuse of sources and high level of the impact on environment. The study of milk delivery also has a significant impact on the environment due to the energy use, solid waste, airborne and waterborne emission (Keoleian, Spitzley & McDaniel).
The high level of the greenhouse gas emissions is particularly caused by the work of dairy farms. The processing and packaging of milk products the methane and dioxide. According to the researchers, one kilogram of milk can be commensurable with one kilogram of carbon dioxide (Yan, Humphreys & Holden, 2011).
Moreover, this sector provides 4 percent of the total level of the greenhouses gases caused by humans. Therefore, the use of water and electricity, synthetic fertilizers, chemical substances, genetic modification in the process of milk production has a significant impact on the environment.
Figure 1. Flowchart of the production of milk, including the relevant steps from production the final product.
The critical methodological choices in his system may occur as the allocation situation when it is difficult to evaluate the cost of the different stages of milk production. The high cost of the particular product can be caused by the excessive consumption of the resources; however, at the same time, dairy farms can hide the low potential for reuse of sources and high level of the environmental impact.
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Due to the use of the different technologies and facilities by the farms, it is difficult to analyze the systematical process and to generalize the costs.
The system boundaries of the milk life cycle can be determined by the production of fodder materials needed for the cows and the supermarkets when milk comes to consumers. However, the beginning of milk life cycle can be also started from the other sources and facilities manufacturing which are also highly important for the milk production.
Analyzing the assignment Methodological Analysis of Eggs by Katalin Simon, we can notice that eggs production have a high cost in energy expenditure and carbon-imprint. In this case, eggs production is similar to the milk one. In general, life cycles of those two food products are very resemble in the all stages. Katalin pays more attention to the stages of transportation of the eggs from the farms to storages and stores.
For Katalin, those stages are the significant part of the total environmental impact. She indicates the following important environmental and resource efficiency issues in the area of egg production: global warming, i.e. greenhouse gas emissions, water use and energy use. I agree with this determination. However, I think that the use of chemical materials is also play a significant role in case of environmental impact.
I agree with Katalin that the problem areas should be improved. She suggest several methods: improving feed efficiency, making the use of manure more effective, changing the packaging for transport from the farm to better alternatives for the environment, and reducing energy consumption in the packaging facilities.
All those positions can be related to the milk production as well. The system needs providing more strict lows and control in order to protect the environment and consumers from the negative impact of the manufacturing.
As the conclusions, we can notice that, in case of milk production, life cycle includes several stages that provide a significant impact on the environment. The dairy farms use the modern electrical technologies, fertilizers, chemical substances.
Consuming a lot of resources, farms pollute water and air and cause greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental impact on life cycle of milk related to development of national agricultural sector.
Barber, S. L & Halbach, T. R n.d. , Life Cycle of a Consumer Product. Web.
Keoleian, G. A., Spitzley, D & McDaniel J n.d., Life Cycle design of Milk and Juice Packaging. Web.
The Global Dairy Agenda for Action 2012. Web.
Yan, M. J., Humphreys J & Holden N. M 2011, ‘An evaluation of life cycle assessment of European milk production’, J Environ Manage, 92 (3), pp. 372-379. Web.