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01.08.2014 | LCA FOR AGRICULTURE | Ausgabe 8/2014

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 8/2014

Comparing apples with oranges: on the functional equivalence of food products for comparative LCAs

Zeitschrift:
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment > Ausgabe 8/2014
Autoren:
Marcelo Tyszler, Gerard Kramer, Hans Blonk
Wichtige Hinweise
Responsible editor: Greg Thoma

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s11367-014-0762-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Abstract

Purpose

In this article, we present an innovative way of deriving comparable functional systems for comparative life cycle assessments (LCAs) of food products. We define the functional unit as the contribution of one or more foods to the nutrient composition of a weekly diet and, after a product substitution, employ a product system expansion approach to search for an alternative set of products which provides an equivalent nutritional composition.

Methods

Replacement is regarded within the context of a weekly diet. The comparable diet is a solution to a linear problem which finds the diet that is most similar to the starting one, subject to nutritional and/or other constraints that guarantee a minimum dietary quality. The formulation gives priority to selecting food products according to popularity.

Results

We illustrate our method with two examples. We show that a baseline diet containing 3.6 servings of apples a week is equivalent to a similar diet in which the apples are replaced with 3.6 servings of oranges and servings of strawberry and kiwi are removed. These changes are necessary mainly because of differences in the vitamin C content between apples and oranges. The second example is a replacement of all meat in a weekly diet by a soy-based meat substitute. In this case, additional fish products need to be consumed to make up for a lack of selenium and essential amino acids.

Conclusions

We present an innovative and objective way to overcome the challenge of comparing two or more food products in a comparative LCA. Our approach is systematic and finds the alternative diet that best meets the nutritional criteria as well as reflecting the food preferences of the population. The method selects products according to the role they play in the dietary pattern. Moreover, the method is flexible enough to allow for different selection criteria and other nutritional and non-nutritional constraints.

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Zusatzmaterial
ESM 1 (DOCX 31 kb)
11367_2014_762_MOESM1_ESM.docx
ESM 2 (DOCX 18 kb)
11367_2014_762_MOESM2_ESM.docx
ESM 3 (DOCX 19 kb)
11367_2014_762_MOESM3_ESM.docx
Literatur
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