Energy consumption in the UK diary chains

Lead University: The University of Manchester

Professor Adisa Azapagic, Dr Alessandra Fusi

Collaboration: Brunel University London

Professor Savvas Tassou, Dr Baboo Gowreesunker


About 30% of global energy is consumed in the agricultural and food sector, contributing around 20% to the total greenhouse gas emissions. Within the livestock sector, the dairy sector is the largest energy user and one of the highest emitters of carbon dioxide. Despite its enormous size and economic value, there is currently scant information on the energy consumption, both electrical and thermal, of different dairy products across their life cycle. The aim of this study was to estimate the life cycle energy consumption for different dairy products consumed in the UK as well as to identify the hotspots to guide improvement strategies. The following dairy products are considered: milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, milk powder, cream and ice cream.

The whole life cycle of the dairy products has been evaluated, from production of raw materials, to post-consumer waste management, including packaging and waste product disposal. Data were largely sourced from the literature as well own estimations.


  • Farming is the most energy demanding stage due to milking equipment, lighting, fodder production and fuel use
  • Energy use for ice cream is also significant
  • Improvement options at farm include milk pre-cooling, insulated water heaters, variable speed drives and anaerobic digestion
  • At the retailer, the main improvement opportunities are in using more efficient refrigeration systems

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