In what is believed to be a world first for organic meat production, Arcadian Organic and Natural Meat Co says that not only has it become carbon neutral across its entire supply chain but it is giving all of its suppliers the opportunity to achieve the same status.
At a workshop in Blackall last December, the Toowoomba-based company stepped 32 independent suppliers in the central west region through the processes involved in farming carbon and how they could benefit.
Last September the company announced it had become Australia's first 100 per cent carbon neutral meat business, involving some 180,000 grass-fed, certified organic livestock on about 120 properties across Australia, plus all food packaging for each market.
Arcadian Organic's communications manager Paul da Silva said that rather than being content with investing in carbon offsets to compensate for the company's carbon footprint, it wanted to look at how it could give suppliers opportunities to reduce their carbon emissions.
"The other prong to our workshop in Blackall was to help suppliers explore carbon farming and how they could benefit from it," he said.
Arcadian's environmental officer Charlie Hawkins said it was a very exciting development.
"The majority of emissions in the footprint come from producers, and they're interested in transparency as part of carbon reduction, through measuring emissions."
By offering the opportunity to undertake a life cycle assessment, auditing individual properties and giving a detailed profile of their carbon footprint, including the source of emissions and percentage breakdowns, it's expected they will better understand how property management techniques can be employed to reduce emissions.
A flow-on benefit would be to generate carbon credits for their operations, in partnership with Arcadian Organic, which in turn would reduce the parent company's financial contribution.
"They could attempt to undertake that independently but the process of doing it would require them to engage experts, which we've already engaged," Mr da Silva said.
"They're part of our supply chain so we believe it's a pretty compelling argument to do it in partnership with us, because they're already deeply embedded in our business."
From the results of the life cycle analysis, practical changes such as grazing different parts of the property at different times and decisions about moving stock can be implemented, knowing that it will have a beneficial effect on emissions.
Much of the emphasis will be on decisions that contribute to a liveweight gain in a shorter time, thereby shortening the period that the animal is producing emissions.
"It reaches its market rate sooner, so it's very consistent with objectives they already have," Mr da Silva said. "You can produce the same amount of cattle and the same amount of kilograms and produce less emissions in the process."
While getting productivity benefits they are reducing emissions in a measurable, audited way that generates carbon credit units.
In the process, the amount that Arcadian Organics has to compensate for, or the offsets they need to hold, would be reduced.
"Things they wouldn't have ordinarily done that produced no direct revenue opportunity, now they can consider because they can say, it might actually be that doing things this way, we get more revenue from our operation for the carbon implications," Mr da Silva said. "It adds an extra commodity to what they're able to produce."
He said all in the room had been fully engaged in the explanation, which had the benefit of helping them understand how the carbon market worked generally and how it applied to them in a beef business.
"A lot of what they read is slanted to shutting down animal production for a start.
"It's very difficult for cattle producers to get objective information on that subject - there's been nowhere they can go to get that advice."
In addition, Arcadian Organic executives shared their perspective that being carbon neutral was ethically the right thing to do as well as commercially.
"If there's anything we can do to contribute to the productivity of the land, then Arcadian believes we should do that," Mr da Silva said.
Hand in hand with that are the commercial implications of being carbon neutral, which Mr da Silva said had been a sound decision.
"Our customers, both in Australia and our export markets, seek it out. There is a definite desire amongst consumers to find product that is carbon neutral in all segments of the market."