The UK’s Chilled Food Association (CFA) has challenged a report launched by the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) claiming the frozen food supply chain produces fewer carbon emissions than the chilled food chain.
CFA secretary general Kaarin Goodburn told FoodProductionDaily although the research was billed as comparing a meal in the frozen and chilled food supply chains, it was really comparing frozen with fresh.
The use of the term ‘chilled meal’ in the study was also a misnomer, said Goodburn. “They are talking about chilled because they can’t use the word ‘fresh’. I can’t see any mention of a chilled meal in there.” The term was more correctly used to refer to prepared meals designed to be stored chilled, she said.
The report, which was put together by Judith Evans, director, Refrigeration Developments & Technology Centre, examines the whole supply chain, from post harvest and slaughter to consumer waste, for a frozen and chilled meal for a family of four.
The study is supported by analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from chicken, peas, carrots, and roast potato ‘cold chains’ based on data from more than 40 academic papers.
Emissions produced in the following areas are covered in the research:
- Primary food processing
- Transport and storage
- Retail storage
- Storage in the home
- Refrigerant loss throughout the cold chain
- Consumer transport (from supermarket to home)
- Consumer meal preparation and cooking
- Processing and consumer food waste
Emissions from these sources revealed in the specific case of the foods mentioned that frozen food generated 6.329kg of greenhouse gas per meal, versus 6.546kg for the ‘chilled’ meal equivalent. That was a difference of about 5% in favour of frozen food.
Evans told FoodProductionDaily the energy required to store the frozen foods studied produced more GHG emissions than chilled food storage generated, according to the research. However, the waste produced on the chilled food side entailed substantially more emissions – as much as a third more.
“You end up with wins for frozen and chilled,” said Evans. “Emissions from refrigerant were higher on the frozen side.”
She also stressed that the data compiled depended very much on the parties providing the data and the nature of the foods studied. “You can get very different results.”
Commenting on claims the foods covered in the report were fresh rather than chilled, Evans acknowledged vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and peas were not stored chilled at the front of stores. However, she said they were often chilled for months after harvesting before put on display.