A review of the energy consumption in the UK fresh meat chain, from farm to fork

Lead University: Brunel University London

Professor Savvas Tassou, Dr Baboo (Lesh) Gowreesunker

Collaboration: The University of Manchester

Professor Adisa Azapagic, Dr Alessandra Fusi


The food chain consists of agricultural, manufacturing and processing, distribution and packaging, retail and catering, household operations, waste and disposal activities. The global food chain accounts for 20% energy consumption and 30% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with a major contribution from the use of fossil fuels. In the UK, the food chain was responsible for 18% of total energy use and 32% of GHG emissions in 2011, with the agricultural sector accounting for approximately 50% of the total UK food chain emissions. The UK meat sector is among the major food sectors in the UK food chain, accounting for about 16% of the UK food sector, by gross value added in 2012.

This project considered the energy use by different fresh meat chains in the UK, further disaggregating the energy consumption for energy hotspots. Data have been sourced from the literature (peer-reviewed papers, Government and Non-Governmental Organisation reports and specific databases). The beef, pork, lamb and broiler chicken meat chains have been studied. The results suggest that the lamb chain consumes the highest total energy. Farming was found to be the most energy demanding stage across the whole meat supply chain. The study also proposes alternatives that may reduce the energy consumption of these hotspots.


  • The beef chain consumes 83% of its farming energy as fuel for farm machinery and heating oil; pork used 70% of electricity for heating and ventilation; lamb consumed roughly equal amounts of energy as electricity and fuel; broiler chicken used 60% of energy as electricity for heating and ventilation. As pigs and broiler chickens are kept indoors, the energy associated with building operations tend to dominate.
  • Energy efficiency improvement options at the farming stage include: the adoption of more efficient lighting systems, the maintenance of fans, the use of well insulated water heaters, improving building and pipe insulation and temperature control. In addition, the adoption of anaerobic digesters in conjunction with a CHP system will reduce energy demand from the national grid.

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