WESTERN Australia's largest beef processor, Harvest Road Group (HRG), is seeking to better understand how the beef industry can achieve the industry's carbon neutral goal by 2030.
HRG has joined forces with industry and government to reduce the company's carbon footprint and improve the sustainability and profitability of beef production.
Over the next 18 months the company will conduct a research program to map carbon emissions across its entire supply chain - including its pastoral stations and meat processing plant in Harvey - and identify opportunities for emissions reduction and sequestration.
The project is jointly funded by the HRG, Meat and Livestock Australia and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Developmen, with work to be completed by Integrity Ag & Environment.
Harvest Road general manager of agriculture Kim McDougall said the group wanted to set a positive example for the red meat industry as it seeks to become carbon neutral by 2030.
"The industry made a promise and now it has to meet that deadline," Mr McDougall said.
"The industry needs leadership in this space and I am proud to say Harvest Road is stepping up to the plate.
"We are firmly focussed on it to better understand how we can be a sustainable and ethical beef producer.
"It's an important part of our mission to get food on people's tables with the less impact on the environment as possible.
"Carbon emissions and climate change is the biggest threat to our industry's future so we must find ways in which we can operate sustainably.
"This is a once in a generation opportunity to get our production and environmental considerations aligned and set our industry on the right path."
Mr McDougall said the issue was "part of the core values" of the business and articulated the Forrest family's ideals.
"They fit hand in glove with what we stand for," Mr McDougall said.
Over the next 18 months a report will be prepared by Integrity Ag & Environment to assess HRG's carbon footprint, with beef producers across WA engaged to understand their own environmental impact.
"Part of this project is to explore further opportunities throughout the WA beef supply chain to reduce emissions and sequester carbon," Mr McDougall said.
"We will look at the role of vegetation and soil carbon, among others and bring all those things together to minimise the impact on the environment.
"There's lots of different aspects to it."
Mr McDougall suggested that once the report was produced there could be follow-up research done to expand and further understand a particular issue.
"You don't know what you'll find out until you unearth it," he said.
"But we need to know what our current status is and what aspects we need to fix if necessary.
"We have a social responsibility to produce in a sustainable and ethical way - and that includes with how we manage our people, as well as being profitable.
"At the end of the day if you can't make money it's not sustainable."
DPIRD senior development officer Mandy Curnow said the project would provide first-hand insight into the supply chain's contribution to carbon emissions.
"This will build our understanding of the whole of industry's emissions, of which on-farm emissions are the largest sector," Ms Curnow said.
"Reducing emissions is emerging as an important requirement for customers and we want to ensure WA meat producers can pursue all global market opportunities and help achieve the State government's goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050."
Integrity Ag & Environment are leading agri-environmental service providers, with lead consultant Steve Wiedemann having worked on the first Australian beef carbon footprint analysis in 2006 and on dozens of projects since.
"This project is a great step forward for the Harvest Road Group and the WA beef industry more generally," Dr Wiedemann said.
"You can only reduce impacts by knowing where your starting point is and achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 requires action today."
Already underway is the group's first emissions reduction project - a covered anaerobic lagoon at the company's Harvey Beef site in the South West.
"This will replace the existing uncovered anaerobic lagoon as part of the wastewater treatment system," said Harvest Road Group's general manager of processing Wayne Shaw.
"The new covered anaerobic lagoon will capture biogas that can be used to heat water for the plant, reducing natural gas used and creating Australian carbon credit units."