Food Footprints


Study Objectives and Scope

The objective of this study, conducted by the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), was to review and summarize existing literature regarding the environmental impacts of a variety of foods. The literature is focused on environmental life cycle analyses of foods. This information may be helpful to producers and purchasers working to reduce environmental impacts of foods.

The reports are part of a joint project with the Oregon Sustainability Board and were authored by a research specialist from the University of Michigan.

The literature reviews were designed to identify, where possible:

  • Those activities in the life cycle that contribute significantly to environmental impacts (e.g., are most of the environmental impacts associated with fertilizer use, packaging, transportation, cold storage, or some other aspect of production or consumption?). This may aid in prioritization of voluntary environmental initiatives.
  • Relative environmental impacts of different practices (e.g., how different production, transport, processing, or packaging methods compare). This may aid in the evaluation of alternatives.
  • Limitations in the available literature. This may help users to avoid drawing conclusions that are incorrect, as well as to identify knowledge gaps that might benefit from further research.

The objective of this project is not to:

  • Conduct original life cycle analyses;
  • Evaluate production conditions specific to the Pacific Northwest;
  • Compare Pacific Northwest foods against foods produced elsewhere;
  • Inform, propose, or promulgate regulations.

Study Results

The life cycle of food products are complex and to review their environmental impacts ODEQ researched a variety of different types of foods, some produced in whole or in part in Oregon, and some not produced here but consumed in significant quantities in Oregon. To understand the context and parameters of this project, begin your exploration with the project foreword.

Tomatoes: Executive Summary, Tomatoes - Full Report
Wine: Executive Summary, Wine - Full Report
Pork: Executive Summary, Pork - Full Report
Land-based Aquaculture: Executive Summary, Land-based Aquaculture - Full Report
Beer: Executive Summary, Beer - Full Report
Coffee: Executive Summary, Coffee - Full Report
Citrus Fruit and Juices: Executive Summary, Citrus Fruit and Juices - Full Report

In addition, ODEQ’s literature review has also evaluated two issues that cut across multiple types of foods:

Transportation: Executive Summary, Transportation - Full Report
Packaging and Wasted Food: Executive Summary, Packaging and Wasted Food - Full Report

Food Life Cycle Assessment Initial Literature Review (Feb. 25, 2016)
Recommendations for Further Evaluation (Feb. 26, 2016)

Cite As

Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan. 2017. "Food Footprints Factsheets." Pub. No. CSS17-43.

  1. Oregon Dept. Environmental Quality
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