Results from a ground-breaking research project aimed at significantly improving the carbon footprint of Western Australia’s beef industry will be used to help all producers and stakeholders stay ahead of consumers’ expectations.
Now at the halfway mark of its 18-month development, the collaborative research project is being led by Harvest Road Group, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).
The project is currently analysing the inputs and emissions from the beef processing supply chain, including energy consumption, labour, transport and packaging, with data being collected from Harvest Road production facilities throughout the State.
The project is unique in its depth of research into the carbon intensity and greenhouse gas emissions from all parts of the beef production process.
For the first time at scale, the analysis is looking at emission intensity from all stages of the process, including turnoff, food sources, digestibility and feed intake.
DPIRD senior development officer Mandy Curnow said research findings would provide a valuable insight into carbon emissions from WA’s beef production system.
“Other studies have shown higher feed conversion rates result in a faster growth rate and a younger age at slaughter, giving lower lifetime methane and manure emissions,” Ms Curnow said.
“While further research is required to verify the results, the findings could assist producers when considering when and how to finish their cattle.
“The research also highlights the importance of more productive herds, with higher weaning rates, growth rates, heavier carcase rates and lower mortality rates expected to produce less emissions per unit of feed intake.”
Harvest Road Group’s General Manager of Agriculture Kim McDougall said the project would provide credible, objective data for all stakeholders to guide their steps towards improving their own carbon footprint.
“A lack of critical information is our biggest barrier to moving forward as an industry and currently there is not enough information about the amount of carbon emissions from the beef supply chain and where the real opportunities to improve exist,” Mr McDougall said.
“Our company is proud to be taking a national lead in laying the foundations for a more thorough understanding of the status and drivers behind carbon emissions in the beef supply chain.”
Harvest Road Group’s beef business spans seven pastoral stations, substantial agricultural land holdings and includes the State’s largest beef processing plant, Harvey Beef, which produces packaged, consumer ready meat products.
The project is also conducting market research to better understand consumer attitudes and behaviours to carbon emissions and assist in the development of carbon neutral products.
The market research shows to future-proof business, brands need to invest in more sustainable practices now – to lead the pack and create a clear point of difference, as it becomes the norm.
A survey of 2,000 Australian consumers showed the carbon footprint of the beef industry was an increasingly important factor, with two in three participants responding that producers should be doing everything they can to be sustainable.
The survey results noted that it would not be easy for companies to achieve carbon neutrality and that consumers valued companies that strived to achieve it.
The research also showed that although sustainably produced products were important to consumers, cost was a challenge to purchasing decisions.
MLA Program Manager, Sustainability and Innovation, Doug McNicoll, said the research would be made public when the project concluded.
“The outcomes will be extended to the beef industry throughout Australia to generate further innovations and improvements to production and processing systems,” he said.
“It is important for the beef industry to know the status of cattle carbon emissions so supply chain enterprises can adapt their operations and make informed decisions to remain internationally competitive.”