A study has found the beef industry has been able to reduce its carbon footprint by producing more meat from fewer animals, eating less pasture.
Compared with 1990, New Zealand sheep and beef farms now produce slightly more meat by weight, but from fewer animals.
Researchers have calculated that this productivity improvement has reduced the carbon footprint of New Zealand beef and lamb by about 17% over that time.
Dr Stewart Ledgard, the lead author of the report, said it's hard to assess how New Zealand's footprint compares with others until there's a globally-agreed methodology for 'footprinting'.
But Beef + Lamb New Zealand said the study has created a benchmark for understanding where greenhouse gas emissions are occurring across the supply chain, from production, to processing, transportation and consumption.
Market access manager Ben O'Brien said it confirms other beef carbon footprint studies that show more than 90% of emissions occur on the farm.