Research conducted at a Sheffield university has shown that single loaf of bread produced in the UK contributes as much to global warming as more than half a kilogram of carbon dioxide.
Growing the wheat for the bread, and especially the use of fertiliser, easily accounted for the biggest slice of the bread’s environmental impact, said scientists at the University of Sheffield.
Ammonium nitrate fertiliser used in wheat cultivation made up 43 per cent of the calculated warming footprint of a typical 800 gram wholegrain loaf.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield analysed the supply chain from growing and harvesting the wheat to milling the grain, producing the flour, baking the bread and packaging the final product.
Lead scientist Dr Liam Goucher, from the university’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, said: “Consumers are usually unaware of the environmental impacts embodied in the products they purchase – particularly in the case of food, where the main concerns are usually over health or animal welfare.
“There is perhaps awareness of pollution caused by plastic packaging but many people will be surprised at the wider environmental impacts revealed in this study.”
Every day, an estimated 12m loaves of bread are sold in the UK.