Carbon footprint provider, CarbonCloud, were commissioned to provide the life cycle assessment focusing on greenhouse gases. This particular provider was selected owing to their experience of product climate footprinting and the depth of analysis that they are able to achieve through their modelling software.
Carbon footprint calculation of all 15 recipes:
1. Calculate Carbon footprint of all ingredients
The carbon footprint for Quorn Mince and Pieces is calculated using primary data from 'Farm to Shop' which accounts for all greenhouse gases emitted from the production of raw materials up until the supermarket, including growing of ingredients, manufacture, packaging, storage and transportation. Quorn Foods has been footprinting their core products and certifying this data with third-party accreditation since 2012, and the data used has been extracted from the most recent 2019 certified product footprints.
Some of the remaining ingredients from the recipes were already within the CarbonCloud library. The climate footprints of ingredients in the CarbonCloud library is based on CarbonCloud’s internal research. Additional ingredients for this specific project also came from the RISE database.
Further energy emissions were added according to the cooking methods for each recipe.
2. Multiply the carbon footprint of each ingredient by the weight used in the recipe
The weight used in each recipe was established during the nutritional analysis and displayed using DietPlan 7.
3. Calculate the carbon footprint of storage and cooking within the home
The carbon footprint of the storage and cooking within the home is then calculated, by accounting for the energy needed for 4 days of storage in a fridge/freezer and for each step of cooking – this is added to the final footprint.
Benchmarking carbon footprint metrics
The team wanted to demonstrate the carbon footprint metrics in a relatable way within the resource. A report from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey captured the average daily figure per person for food is 2.8 kg. This report also included a target to reduce daily emissions by 1.78kg per person.
The carbon footprints are based on a "cradle to cooked dish" life cycle assessment. The decision was made to exclude transportation of the food from the shop to the home as there is significant variability in terms of how this is achieved by consumers. One assumption made is that the ingredients that are stored in a fridge or freezer before cooking, are stored for 4 days. In terms of preparation-related emissions, electricity was assumed as the primary energy source, but the team acknowledges that there will be differences in the carbon footprint for those reliant on gas for their cooking appliances.
A further limitation of the footprint metrics is the highly variable environmental impacts of all ingredients except for Quorn products – which are tightly controlled and third-party certified by The Carbon Trust. For example, the project assumed a minimum carbon footprint for UK chicken, but in reality the poultry meat available to buy in the UK may come from a different country and/or be produced in a way which has a far higher carbon footprint. This variability is most pronounced for animal products but is also seen to a lesser extent in plant-based ingredients. Therefore, the difference in carbon footprint between each recipe in this project is likely to be a conservative estimate due to the selection of lower footprint figures for the meat ingredients.
Finally, carbon footprinting is currently the most useful singular metric to assess and compare product sustainability across different food types, due to the increasing amount of robust data available. However carbon footprints are not able to capture many other aspects of sustainability which are important considerations for dietary changes which would help to create more resilient food systems, such as the impact of production methods on land, soil and water systems; the treatment of workers in the supply chains; availability and accessibility of ingredients; the health and economic costs of food production; the level of waste across the value chain; and in the case of meat and dairy products - the welfare standards of rearing conditions and the impact of feed sources (e.g. soy) for livestock.
 Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992.
Reynolds (2019) ‘Healthy and sustainable diets that meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and are affordable for different income groups in the UK’