The Australian red meat sector could be carbon neutral by 2030

November 27th, 2017

Research and marketing group Meat and Livestock Australia says the Australian red meat industry could be carbon neutral by 2030.

The Australia red meat sector is important, producing 3% of the world’s beef and 8% of lamb and mutton. In 2017, Australia was the third largest beef exporter in the world. The red meat sector makes an important contribution to the Australian economy: with a value of AUD$16.3 billion, and employing around 200,000 people.

The red meat industry also contributes to Australian greenhouse gas emissions. While emissions from agriculture are declining, they account for about 13% of total Australian emissions (Commonwealth of Australia 2017). Around 73% of agricultural emissions are from enteric fermentation by ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats), many of which are associated with the red meat sector.

Managing director of Meat and Livestock Australia, Richard Norton, said the red meat sector could be carbon neutral by 2030 during his address at the Meat and Livestock Australia annual general meeting in Alice Springs on Wednesday 22 November 2017.

“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”  Mr Norton said.

This follows work, funded by Meat and Livestock Australia, that we have recently completed. Our project investigated how the Australian red meat industry could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and even become carbon neutral.

Our project, led by Di Mayberry and with analytical support by Harriet Bartlett, involved:

  • Collaborating with the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy to establish the 2005 industry baseline in alignment with Federal Government emission baselines
  • Establishing contributions from pasture beef, sheep, feedlot and processing sectors to overall industry greenhouse gas emissions
  • Exploring options to reduce emissions from livestock and land use (e.g. deforestation and savanna burning management) and sequester carbon (mostly trees) that could assist to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030
  • 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

Our research found that the most promising greenhouse gas mitigation options were land management practice change (savanna burning management, reduced deforestation, sequestration of carbon in vegetation), feed additives and vaccines to reduce enteric methane fermentation (methane produced by cattle, sheep and goats), and improved animal husbandry and management to increase production efficiency (reduced methane emissions per unit of meat produced).

Mr Norton told ABC Rural that the reduction target was set to prove farming red meat can be environmentally sustainable.

“The livestock industry has reduced its emissions by two-thirds over the last decade. So where the livestock industry was touted as [contributing] 25% of total emissions, that’s down now closer to 10%.” Mr Norton said.

For more information see:

Check out the YouTube clip from Meat & Livestock Australia: Making Australia’s red meat industry carbon neutral by 2030


Reference: Commonwealth of Australia (2017) National Inventory Report 2015 Volume 1. Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra.