Flour milling environmental footprint is mostly impacted by cereal production
The increasing concern of climate change globally has created a wave of environmental footprint programmes to assess the environmental performance of products and services. Carbon footprint, a subset of data from Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), is utilised to quantify the impact of Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, etc. often given as total carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2eq).
Wheat farming makes the largest contribution to the wheat flour environmental footprint
Each flour will have its own carbon footprint that is closely linked to both agricultural production and the grain chain as a whole (transport, storage etc.). From the "cradle-to-gate" assessment of one tonne of plain flour, wheat farming is found to contribute most to the carbon footprint of plain wheat flour with a percentage over 60%.
Flour represents around 20% only of the bread environmental footprint
The carbon footprint of one tonne of plain flour is calculated as a sum of the inventory data related to the acquisition of wheat production, transportation, flour mill processing and delivery to customer. However, milling is only the first-processing stage, with wheat being the raw material. Therefore, to consider the carbon footprint of bread, all stages up to the secondary processor (baking process) must be considered. From a "field-to-plate" assessment of bread, wheat production & the baking process are found to contribute most to the carbon footprint with a percentage of around 80%.
Environmental footprint calculation using the physical allocation method
Calculating the carbon footprint of products is a complicated process that requires a very detailed approach. It is important to use a consistent methodology to ensure an accurate, credible result that can be compared with other organisations or products.
For the flour milling sector, the most appropriate approach is to use a physical allocation approach in line with ISO 14044.