Unveiled by managing director of Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) Richard Norton, at the organisation’s annual general meeting, the project will identify pathways for the red meat industry, farm and processing sectors included, to become carbon neutral.
Norton said achieving the goal would put Australia “head and shoulders above its competitors”, giving consumers even more confidence in the quality and integrity of Australian red meat and turning environmental criticism of the industry on its head.
“With industry commitment, the right policy settings and new investment in research, development and adoption, the Australian red meat industry can be carbon neutral by 2030,” he said. “And we can be the first red meat exporting nation to do so.”
The MLA-commissioned project into how the red meat industry could become carbon neutral by 2030, conducted by CSIRO, involves collaboration with the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy; establishing contributions from the beef, sheep grazing, feedlot and processing sectors to overall industry greenhouse gas emissions (GHG); and the exploration of options for reducing GHG emissions from animals, processing and carbon capture from trees and soil and then quantifying their impacts.
Assuming national herd numbers of 28 million cattle and 70 million sheep, other initiatives in the project include identifying pathways based on various combinations of these practices to gain carbon neutrality by 2030; and determining what research, development and adoption is needed for the industry to achieve this target, along with associated financial returns in productivity gains and potential carbon credits.
Norton added that the dividends from setting a carbon-neutral goal would include increased productivity in the red meat industry; additional farm income from carbon mitigation projects; creating a major contribution to government targets on emissions reduction; and offering another strong assurance for consumers of the quality and integrity of naturally produced, great-tasting Australian red meat.
Norton said the Australian red meat industry had already done much of the heavy lifting in the reduction of Australia’s total emissions to date and had an opportunity to create an even better story about its product in the years ahead.
“The red meat industry has already reduced its share of Australia’s total emissions from 20% of Australia’s 600 million tonnes total emissions in 2005 to just 13% in 2015, while also helping to reduce Australia’s overall emissions to 525 million tonnes over the same period,” he said. “Further demonstration of our industry’s willingness to engage is the beef industry’s commitment to reducing emissions by nominating ‘managing climate risk’ and ‘the balance of tree and grass cover’ as two of the six key priority areas within its Sustainability Framework.
“MLA now believes our industry can achieve a carbon-neutral goal, while driving productivity gains and further differentiating Australian red meat from low-cost competitors and artificial alternatives. This will ensure Australian red meat remains the natural choice in the high-value international markets that reward quality, product integrity and ethically and environmentally sustainable production systems.”