Spreading the word about our low carbon footprint

// Climate Change

Beef + Lamb New Zealand has been working hard to promote new research that confirms the carbon footprint of New Zealand beef and lamb is among the lowest in the world.

Last week B+LNZ released AgResearch’s Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) (PDF, 2.3 MB), and it’s received plenty of interest.

There’s been considerable media coverage, including Newshub, RNZ, Rural Exchange, TodayFM, the New Zealand Herald, Jamie Mackay’s radio show, and Farmers Weekly.

Meanwhile, our LCA social media posts across B+LNZ Inc and B+LNZ Ltd’s platforms reached more than 280,000 people.

In addition to this, we had more than 5,900 visits to the LCA story across the B+LNZ Inc and B+LNZ Ltd websites, while the summary report (PDF, 2.3 MB) was the best performing download document on the B+LNZ Ltd website this week.

The research, commissioned by B+LNZ and the Meat Industry Association (MIA), showed that a kilo of New Zealand sheepmeat has a carbon footprint of just under 15 kilograms (kgs) of CO2 equivalent emissions per kilo. While the carbon footprint of New Zealand beef is just under 22kgs – making the country’s red meat among the most efficient in the world.

Compared to other countries, the research found that the carbon footprint of exported New Zealand beef or sheepmeat is lower or very similar to domestically produced red meat in those countries.

“New Zealand’s on-farm footprint was about half the average of the other countries compared in the study. Consumers can therefore feel confident that purchasing New Zealand beef and lamb is a good choice for the environment,” says B+LNZ Chief Executive Sam McIvor.

The LCA was calculated using GWP100 for converting methane to carbon dioxide equivalent for international comparisons, but AgResearch also measured the carbon footprint of New Zealand beef and sheepmeat using GWP*.

GWP* scales emissions over time and better accounts for the different warming behaviours of short-lived gases like methane which disappear after 12 years.  

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that the traditional GWP100 method overstates the impact of methane when it isn’t increasing, as is the case in New Zealand.

“The calculation using GWP* for the period 1998 to 2018 showed that when considering sequestration – trees and other vegetation on farms absorbing emissions – New Zealand’s sheepmeat is arguably ‘climate neutral’ and New Zealand beef is also well on the way towards that,” says McIvor.

“That means over the last 20 years, New Zealand sheepmeat has not added any additional warming, while absolute greenhouse emissions from New Zealand sheep and beef farming have decreased by 30 per cent since 1990.”

While the research shows New Zealand sheep and beef farmers are among the most efficient in the world, continuous improvement is required. 

The AgResearch GWP* LCA looks backwards at how much additional warming has been produced per kilo of beef or lamb over the last 20 years. It shows that sheep and beef farmers have done a great job over the last 30 years, but we acknowledge our ongoing warming and that we arguably still need to do more.    

McIvor says it is important that the right metric is used as more focus goes on the climate impact of animal agriculture and our food systems.

“B+LNZ has been calling for the New Zealand Government to review the methane targets using the more appropriate GWP* metric, and to report on warming as well as emissions, for several years now, we reiterate that call, GWP* is becoming mainstream.” 

B+LNZ also joined forces with DairyNZ and Federated Farmers to reaffirm the primary sector partners’ united front on emissions pricing.

During a meeting in Christchurch, leaders of DairyNZ, B+LNZ and Federated Farmers established core principles that will be raised directly with the Government. McIvor reiterated the three organisations’ firm stance.

“The Government’s emission pricing proposal differs significantly from the He Waka Eke Noa recommendations, which were designed as a whole-farm system approach to reduce emissions, meet targets and give fair recognition and reward for on-farm planting,” he says.

“The Government’s subsequent changes have needlessly put the finely balanced cross-sector consensus at risk. Our organisations are united and determined to get the best possible outcome for farmers.”

Our media release was picked up by a number of outlets, including RNZ, The Country, Gisborne Herald, and Farmers Weekly.