BEEF’S bid to be carbon neutral by 2030 is very much about tackling fake meat head on.
And it is being embraced by both industry and the wider audience watching livestock production.
This from Meat and Livestock Australia’s managing director Richard Norton, who was quizzed during a senate estimates hearing in Canberra this week on what progress was being made on the ambitious target.
The big red meat body announced at its annual general meeting in November last year that it would push for the industry to meet that goal, saying it would put Australia head and shoulders above its competitors and turn environmental criticism of the industry on its head.
Since then, MLA and the CSIRO have done work around establishing the baselines of where carbon from the livestock sector now sits.
“The reason we are buoyed is there are some 15 to 20 different pathways through which the livestock industry can achieve carbon neutrality,” Mr Norton told senators.
The early work is happening from the farmgate through to the processing sector.
“We hope this initiative will build research around how to reduce carbon right across the value chain,” Mr Norton said.
“Of the various challenges MLA has put out to industry, this one has been received the most credibly by stakeholders and the wider audience.
“We are enthused by the embracing of the fact we are making sure this is not a target that passes us by.
“The livestock industry takes up 60 to 70 per cent of land so if it is more favourable to capturing carbon, it obviously has a large impact on the future.”
Mr Norton acknowledged initial studies investigated “all sorts of pathways” and some were fanciful, but said the project had moved on from that now.
One example was breeding only elite cattle.
“The bulk of our cattle run in semi arid environments where we require them to calve each year,” he said.
“We will breed animals with phenotypes suitable to our environment and then work on ways to reduce emissions, particularly through soil.”
Large pastoral companies with big stakes in the red meat industry were early movers, he said, citing examples of savanna burning and companies such as the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC).
“The simple fact here is apart from being a target around reducing carbon, it is a marketing tool for early adopters to promote their product as carbon neutral,” Mr Norton said.
“We framed it at the AGM around providing confidence to our industry that MLA was aware of competition to the red meat industry from things like petri dish meat, red meat grown in laboratories and protein vegetable burgers.
“Some of the claims they are making to compete against red meat are around environmental damage, water usage, etc.
“So there are many outcomes from a target like carbon neutrality.”