Today there is a strong trend in Sweden for industrially processed meals to replace homemade meals. In the public debate this is often claimed to increase the environmental impact from foods. In the study presented in this article, we used life-cycle assessment to quantify the environmental impact of three meals: homemade, semiprepared, and ready-to-eat. The differences in environmental impact between the meals were small; the ready-to-eat meal used the most energy, whereas the homemade meal had higher emissions causing eutrophication and global warming. The dominating contributor to the environmental impact was agriculture, accounting for 30% of the impact related to energy and 95% of that related to eutrophication. Industry, packaging, and consumer home transport and food preparation also contributed significantly. Important factors were raw material use, energy efficiency in industry and households, packaging, and residue treatment. To decrease the overall environmental impact of food consumption, improvements in agriculture are very important, together with raw-material use within industry and households.
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Vol. 34 • No. 4