Myth buster- frozen food is green

Frozen food is less carbon intensive than chilled food, contrary to common belief, a scientific report has shown.

The report, written by the Institute of Refrigeration fellow Judith Evans, assessed carbon emissions from post-harvest or post-slaughter to consumer consumption and found that a frozen meal for a family of four produced 5% less CO2 than a chilled equivalent.

The ‘Carbon Emissions from Chilled and Frozen Cold Chains’ report calculated the CO2 equivalent for a typical UK Sunday roast meal for four people. An analysis of the emissions from chicken, peas, carrots, and roast potato ‘cold chains’ from over 40 academic papers was carried out, comparing energy sources ranging from transport and storage to the cooking.

A chilled meal for four people was equivalent to 6.546kg CO2 compared to a frozen meal for four at only 6.329kg CO2 according to the report. Across all food types tested, all but one of the frozen products had lower CO2 than their chilled equivalent.

Ms Evans believes that frozen could contribute towards reducing the CO2 output of the food industry in the future.

“This report goes some way to debunking the commonly held assumption that producing, storing and consuming frozen food is more energy intensive than chilled products. A thorough and rigorous review of the scientific evidence found, within the boundaries considered, frozen to be less CO2 intensive – especially when considering carbon dioxide produced from waste,” she said.

The British Frozen Food Federation commissioned the report. The Federation’s director Ben Young said: “For a long time frozen has been seen as a ‘poor relation’ to chilled in terms of quality, nutrition and environmental friendliness. Misconceptions around quality and nutritional have recently been overturned – and this ‘world first’ CO2 report substantiates the fact that frozen compares favourably to chilled in its ‘green’ credentials.”

Conor McGlone

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