Meat & Livestock Australia has revealed emissions from the red meat industry have fallen by 53 per cent from 2005 to 2018, and there are ample producer opportunities to help the industry move towards its goal of carbon neutral by 2030.
Speaking at the SA Arid Lands Pastoral Field Day held in Port Augusta earlier this month, MLA's Carbon Neutral 2030 manager Margaret Jewell said there was lots of work to be done to shift widely-held consumer beliefs about the red meat industry, but by taking a proactive and bold approach, it was achievable.
"People who don't have much to do with the red meat industry are pretty convinced that reducing their red meat consumption is great for the environment," Ms Jewell said.
"We know this isn't true, and that we can produce a really sustainable product. All the work we're trying to focus on is ensuring we're continuing to increase the environmental and economic sustainability of the product we're trying to produce.
"We're thinking in 2030 Aussie producers will be buying red meat because they know it's good for them and the environment.
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"We also think by being on the front foot and demonstrating we're taking action, we'll be minimising the need for government and regulators to come along with the stick approach and force industry to make changes before we might be ready."
Ms Jewell said carbon farming and greenhouse gas emissions avoidance schemes were two of four key work areas to achieving CN30 - along with integrated management systems and leadership building.
"We're uniquely positioned in the red meat industry because we're custodians of a huge landmass in Australia, and can potentially be storing carbon right across that landscape," she said.
With an increasing number of people becoming aware of and interested in carbon farming, Ms Jewell said producers wondering where to start could break it down to an initial evaluation and then exploring offset options.
"In the first instance, you want to do a carbon balance to establish a baseline, working out what emissions are attributed to your system, what offsets do you have, and what your net position is at the end," she said.
Carbon accounting is not your average skillset, and most producers need to seek advice from livestock advisors or carbon developers to complete that activity.- MARGARET JEWELL
After this, Ms Jewell said producers should evaluate emission reduction options, which could involve revegetation, herd and flock management, improved feed options and targeted breeding choices.
"Just as you can select for fertility and growth rates, from 2025 onwards, we're hoping to have breeding value selection indices to allow producers to select for low methane, and then reduce methane emissions per kilogram of liveweight."
Ms Jewell said the intricacies of carbon farming required advanced knowledge, and she urged farmers to reach out for guidance.
"Carbon accounting is not your average skillset, and most producers need to seek advice from livestock advisors or carbon developers to complete that activity," she said.
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