7 Apr 2010

Farming challenge ahead over carbon footprint of NZ lamb

5:39 pm on 7 April 2010

A new study that measures the carbon footprint of New Zealand lamb exported to Europe confirms that the biggest challenge in reducing that foot-print will be on the farm.

The study by AgResearch scientists shows that each 100 gram portion of lamb sent to Europe creates 1.9kg of CO2 equivalents - 22% less than in 1990.

The results reflect a fall of 43% in the national flock during the period.

It's the first detailed study of the carbon footprint of a New Zealand meat product that covers the whole life cycle, from the farm to the consumer.

Meat Industry Association chairman Bill Falconer says it will come as no surprise that 80% of that is generated on the farm.

Professor Jacqueline Rowarth of Massey University says that while New Zealand has shown it can produce lamb more sustainably than other countries, the study also highlights the challenge of reducing the carbon foot-print inside the farm gate.

The lamb study follows earlier carbon foot-print assessments of the dairy and kiwifruit sectors.

Its release coincides with the first meeting of a global research alliance on agricultural green-house gas emissions, in Wellington on Wednesday.

More than 80 representatives from 28 countries will work out how they will collaborate in finding ways to produce more food with fewer emissions.

12% reduction tipped

The report's author, Stewart Ledgard, says 80% of emissions were produced on the farm, mainly from methane as a by-product of digestion.

He says this could be reduced by up to 12%, by further improving lambing percentages and growth rates.