Mushroom Life Cycle Assessment

Gentle on the Planet 

Stakeholders across the food product supply chain are increasingly interested in understanding the environmental effects of food production. Mushrooms have a unique growing process unlike any other produce item and are considered “one of the most sustainably produced foods in the United States1.” Consider this:

  • They are grown in the absence of sunlight in a climate-controlled environment.1
  • One pound of production requires only 1.8 gallons of water; 1.0 kilowatt hours of energy; generates only .7 pounds of CO2 equivalent emissions.1
  • Up to 1 million pounds produced on just 1 acre.1

A 2018 study2 published in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment looked at the cradle-to-gate life cycle environmental impacts of mushroom production in the United States from cultivation to harvest and preparation for bulk packaging. The goal was to create a “baseline” estimate of energy use, global warming potential (GWP), water use, and other common environmental impacts

Below is a system diagram for the life cycle assessment (LCA) for mushroom production in the United States. The life cycle assessment (LCA) looked at the three distinct phases of mushroom production: 1) composting and composting operation, 2) pasteurization and conditioning to finish the compost, and 3) growing and harvesting of mushrooms.

Results show that mushroom production in the U.S. has a reduced GWP (commonly known as “carbon footprint”) more than previous mushroom LCAs conducted in other countries 3,4

1 The Mushroom Sustainability Story: Water, Energy, and Climate Environmental Metrics, 2017 Report.

2 Robinson, B., Winans, K., Kendall, A., Dlott, J., Dlott, F. (2018), A life cycle assessment of Agaricus bisporus mushroom production in the USA. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-018-1456-6

3 Gunady MGA, Biswas W, Solah VA, James AP (2012) Evaluating the global warming potential of the fresh produce supply chain for strawberries, romaine/cos lettuces (Lactuca sativa), and button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) in Western Australia using life cycle assessment (LCA). Journal of Cleaner Production 28:81–87

4 Leiva FJ, Saenz-Díez JC, Martínez E, Jiménez E, Blanco J (2015) Environmental impact of Agaricus bisporus cultivation process. Eur J Agron 71:141–148

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