Introducing the Green Protein Footprint method as an understandable measure of the environmental cost of anchovy consumption
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AuthorLaso Cortabitarte, Jara; Margallo Blanco, María; Serrano San Martín, María; Vázquez Rowe, Ian; Avadí Tapia, Ángel Daniel; Fullana i Palmer, Pere; Bala Gala, Alba; Gazulla Santos, Cristina; Irabien Gulías, José Ángel; Aldaco García, Rubén
In a global framework of growing concern for food security and environmental protection, the selection of food products with higher protein content and lower environmental impact is a challenge. To assess the reliability of different strategies along the food supply chain, a measure of food cost through the environmental impact-protein content binomial is necessary. This study proposes a standardized method to calculate the Green Protein Footprint (GPF) index, a method that assesses both the environmental impact of a food product and its protein content provided to consumers. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was used to calculate the environmental impact of the selected food products, and a Life Cycle Protein Assessment (LCPA) was performed by accounting for the protein content along the supply chain. Although the GPF can be applied to all food chain products, this paper is focused on European anchovy-based products for indirect human consumption (fishmeal) and for direct human consumption (fresh, salted and canned anchovies). Moreover, the circular economy concept was applied considering the valorization of the anchovy residues generated during the canning process. These residues were used to produce fishmeal, which was employed in bass aquaculture. Hence, humans are finally consuming fish protein from the residues, closing the loop of the original product life cycle. More elaborated, multi-ingredient food products (salted and canned anchovy products), presented higher GPF values due to higher environmental impacts. Furthermore, the increase of food loss throughout their life cycle caused a decrease in the protein content. Regarding salted and canned products, the packaging was the main hotspot. The influence of the packaging was evaluated using the GPF, reaffirming that plastic was the best alternative. These results highlighted the importance of improving packaging materials in food products.