Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Australian Red Meat is Carbon Efficient - near Carbon Neutral

This story has been reported in various forms recently, but actually finding the source material has been elusive.

But it will now soon be published in a peer reviewed credible there is a bit of cred behind it.

There are many ways to skin a cat goes the old adage............reporting carbon figures is a lot like that! Depends on what is and is not counted, and where and how, and what might be excluded or where 'general" data is used as a substitue in the absence of any real world trial data.

However, this recent quite rigorous examination of pastoral land production of red meat shows that it is a carbon efficient means of production. Most of Australia's red meat is produced in this style, with smaller amounts on slightly higher productivity pastures that receive fertiliser.

It will not stop the counter arguments about cattle and sheep being land vandals, gross methane producers, etc etc. But is clearly shows the production is carbon efficient, and can be made even better......with considerable opportunities for being carbon positive, ie sequestering carbon. Further R and D is also being conducted into improving nett methane emissions from livestock through a range of advanced technologies. But lets not forget, that higher plant digestibility generally means lower methane emissions too. This can be a serious issue with lower inherent digestibility in many tropical forage plants, although most legumes are better.......yet tropical legumes seem a bit out of favour with grasses the now preferred plant type commonly.

Solid evidence and worth applause from all those in the pastoral industry.

And please note.........the pastoral industry has actually reduced greenhouse emisions since 1990. Hmmm......haven't sheep and cattle numbers also fallen since then too??


Red meat proved to be carbon efficient

AUSTRALIAN red meat production is much more carbon-efficient than often reported in the media, says an important study by the University of NSW.

The three-year Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study of production systems in Victoria, NSW and WA showed carbon emissions from sheep and cattle meat production were among the lowest in the world.
It showed sheepmeat produced 7-8kg of CO2-equivalent per kg of meat (carcase weight) while for beef, values ranged from 8-11kg.

Based on figures from the research, eating red meat three times weekly results in 164kg to 258kg of CO2 emissions a year - vastly different to claims of emissions up to 1.5 tonnes.

The research will be published soon in the Environmental Science and Technology Journal.

Meat and Livestock Australia managing director, David Palmer said the "credible and reliable data" gave an accurate reflection of carbon emissions for Australia's meat production systems. "Most Australian cattle and sheep are raised in a natural environment feeding on pastures with little or no use of fertilisers and it is unfortunate that until now inaccurate and exaggerated figures have been used," he said.

LCA quantifies the important environmental impacts of all processes in a production system, but does not take into consideration the ability of soil and trees on farms to absorb carbon.

A recent Queensland Government report on total carbon balance on grazing lands in the state with 47pc of Australia's cattle production, found they were close to carbon-neutral and in the near future might be a net carbon sink. "Importantly the new figures give us a baseline from which to continue to improve the industry's performance in regards to emissions. However they do not paint a complete picture and should never be looked at in isolation from other environmental factors such as water and biodiversity," Mr Palmer said.

Most people were not aware that the livestock sector was the only production industry in Australia to have reduced greenhouse emissions since 1990. The Australian Greenhouse office said it had reduced emissions by 7.5pc, compared with increases in other industries such as transport and electricity, up 26.9pc and 54.1pc respectively, he said. "We now have a better basis to track improvement in the future."

The UNSW study shows that when assessed across the supply chain from paddock to processing, more than 80pc of carbon emissions come from the natural process of digestion of feed by the animal.

It was for this reason that MLA had co-invested with the Federal government and other partners in a $28 million program covering 18 research projects looking at how to reduce emissions from livestock.

The Australian Lot Feeders Association noted the UNSW report addressed the popular misconception that beef feedlots were energy intensive and worse for the environment than other forms of beef production. "The report concluded that beef from lotfed cattle had 50pc and 38pc lower methane emissions than organic and grassfed beef production respectively," ALFA president Jim Cudmore said.

This was because of superior nutrition and digestibility of feedlot rations and meant that cattle slaughter weights could be achieved at a younger age.

By improving the efficiency of beef production (through increasing the proportion of feed energy that is converted to beef) lower methane emissions per unit of product were obtained, he said. "Notably, this goal can be achieved by both grain and grassfed production systems. In addition, given that grainfed cattle spend the majority of their lives in a grassfed environment prior to feedlot entry, and consumers rarely differentiate between the two, the issue of improving the beef industry's overall emissions profile is something that the sector as a whole is looking to address."

[partially sourced Qld Country life]

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