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Review: The challenge to integrate animal welfare indicators into the Life Cycle Assessment

Lanzoni, L; Whatford, L; Atzori, AS; Chincarini, M; Giammarco, M; Fusaro, I; Vignola, G


L Lanzoni

L Whatford

AS Atzori

M Chincarini

M Giammarco

I Fusaro

G Vignola


The transition to a more sustainable livestock sector represents one of the major challenges of our time. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is recognised as the gold standard methodology for assessing the environmental impact of farming systems. Simultaneously, animal welfare is a key component of livestock production and is intrinsically related to human and environmental well-being. To perform an overall onfarm sustainability assessment, it would be desirable to consider both the environmental impact and the welfare of the animals. The present work aimed to summarise and describe the methodologies adopted in peer-reviewed papers published to date, that combine animal welfare evaluation with LCA. Citations, retrieved from four bibliographical databases, were systematically evaluated in a multi-stage approach following the JBI and PRISMA scoping review guidelines. The searches identified 1 460 studies, of which only 24 were compliant with the inclusion criteria. The results highlighted how the environmental LCA was undertaken with a much more homogenous and standardised method than animal welfare assessment. When studies were grouped based on the type of animal welfare assessment performed: 16.7% used single welfare indicators, 45.8% multiple indicators, 8.3% applied existing validated protocols (i.e., TGI-200 and TGI-35L), 16.7% used non-validated protocols and 12.5% employed other methods. The papers were further classified with respect to the "5 Animal Welfare Domains Model": the most assessed domain was "environment" (90.5% of the papers%), followed by "health" (52.4%), "nutrition" (33.3%), "behavioural interactions" (28.6%) and "mental state" (9.5%). None of the studies assessed all the domains simultaneously. In addition, 66.7% of papers (n = 16) aggregated the animal welfare indicators into a final score. Within these, only four papers proposed to associate the animal welfare scores with the LCA functional unit. An overall sustainability score, calculated with several different approaches to summarise the information, was provided by 46% of the papers. In summary, despite the topic's relevance, to date, there is neither a consensus on the animal welfare assessment approach to be carried out (indicators selection and their aggregation) nor on the standardisation of an integrated animal welfare-LCA evaluation. The present review provides a basis for the development of common future guidelines to carry out a comprehensive, true-to-life and robust farm sustainability assessment. (c) 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of The Animal Consortium. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (


Lanzoni, L., Whatford, L., Atzori, A., Chincarini, M., Giammarco, M., Fusaro, I., & Vignola, G. (2023). Review: The challenge to integrate animal welfare indicators into the Life Cycle Assessment. animal, 17(5),

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Mar 21, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Feb 15, 2024
Publicly Available Date Feb 15, 2024
Print ISSN 1751-7311
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 5
Keywords Animal production; Environmental impact; Holistic evaluation; Livestock welfare; Sustainability; SOCIETAL PERFORMANCE; PRODUCTION SYSTEMS; SUSTAINABILITY; EMISSIONS; FRAMEWORK


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