AN aspirational target to be carbon neutral by 2030, known as CN30, has been set by the Australian red meat industry, with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) supporting it through research, development and adoption.
The industry's red meat 2030 strategy, which involves doubling the value of Australian red meat sales by 2030 as the trusted source of the highest quality protein, was the focus of a presentation given by MLA managing director Jason Strong at the Grower Group's Alliance 2021 Grower Forum, held in Perth late last month, via Zoom.
Red meat 2030 is a 10-year shared vision and direction for the industry which sets out the six priorities to guide activities.
People see being part of the Australian red meat and livestock industry as attractive now and into the future.
Consumers, customers and community
People feel good about eating Australian red meat.
Consumers, customers and communities recognise the vital role the red meat industry plays in food production and food security and trust the industry to deliver high value, high quality products.
The industry sets the standard for world-class animal health, welfare, biosecurity and production practices.
The industry demonstrates leadership in sustainability, delivering on community expectations in the areas of land, water, biodiversity, climate variability and biosecurity.
MLA works to improve the economic resilience of the red meat industry by increasing access to and the performance of existing and new markets.
The Australian red meat industry is a trusted brand because of its integrity systems, built on trust and respect that supports strong partnerships and sharing of information, reducing unnecessary industry and government regulations.
In line with the strategy, MLA has a five-year view which involves the translation and connection of red meat 2030 priorities into the organisation's strategic focus.
Speaking at the WA forum, Mr Strong said the purpose of MLA's 2025 strategic plan was to foster the long-term prosperity of the Australian red meat and livestock industry.
"We plan to do that by collaborating with stakeholders to invest in research, development and marketing initiatives that contribute to producer profitability, sustainability and global competitiveness," Mr Strong said.
"Our objective is to help double the value of Australian red meat sales, products must meet or exceed consumer needs and the focus be on where we have a competitive advantage.
"We also want to become the trusted source of the highest quality protein, the focus should be on product quality and product attributes, including animal health, welfare and environmental credentials."
As part of the plan, MLA will focus on prioritising investments to create a defendable competitive advantage.
That includes underpinning integrity systems and initiatives that support producers to adopt animal health and welfare best practices, adapt to climate variability and understand CN30 pathways, always linked to productivity.
"Our key performance indicators will be the number of producers deriving revenue from environmental services and/or natural capital trading markets has increased year-on-year," Mr Strong said.
"As well as increased utilisation of data and evidence to inform production-led environmental outcomes and progress towards CN30 with improvements in carbon net position."
In terms of a roadmap to CN30, MLA has milestones in place to help the industry reach this goal.
Those milestones started last year with MLA releasing the next generation of carbon accounting tools for producers and releasing carbon neutral extension and adoption packages for producers.
By 2023, the organisation wants livestock supplements to be available through commercial partners which increase productivity and decrease enteric methane.
On top of that, MLA will have completed research and development required for at least three new or revised scientific methods available to industry to generate carbon credits in feedlots, supplements and whole-of-farming management.
By 2025 the organisation wants producers using available savanna fire management methods on up to 40 million hectares, creating more than 10m additional carbon credits a year.
Mr Strong said all of that would combine in 2030 to the industry meeting many key goals.
"Producers would be using vegetation management methods to increase onfarm productivity by integrating shade and shelterbelts on 10m ha of the available 355m ha of grazing area," he said.
"They would be using soil carbon sequestration methods to increase soil carbon in 30 per cent of grazing lands by 50 to 100 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per hectare per year.
"We're also aiming for 25m ha of new legume plantings, increasing livestock productivity by 23-30pc and reducing emissions by 10-20pc, as well as supplements which increase live weight gain by up to 10pc and decrease enteric methane by up to 90pc used in 40pc of the national herd and flock and 75pc of feedlots."
In terms of progress to date, greenhouse gas emissions from the Australian red meat industry have fallen 57pc since 2005 and its contribution to nation emissions has more than halved from 21pc in 2005 to 10pc in 2017.
Furthermore, red meat and manufacturing are the only major sectors in the Australian economy to reduce emissions since 1990, with red meat making by far the greatest reduction.
Mr Strong said red meat producers managed half of Australia's land mass - most of this land was not suitable for crop production - in fact, less than 8pc of Australia's land mass is suitable for cropping.
"The amount of tree cover in Australia has increased since 1991 and it takes 68pc less water to produce a kilo of beef than it did 30 years ago," he said.
"Consumption of Australian red meat three to four times a week will not contribute to global temperature rise, plus the beef industry is working towards 100pc use of pain relief by 2030."
The industry has been working to engage consumers on the health, welfare and environmental credentials of red meat and share the story of red meat production.
Last year, beef was on the menu in more than 90pc of Australian households and lamb in more than 76pc of households.
Mr Strong said anti-meat extremism may have recently spiked in news headlines, but there was no tidal wave of consumers turning to veganism.
"MLA research shows red meat producers are trusted by consumers, with 93pc saying producers are responsible custodians of the land and more than two-thirds saying the industry's animal welfare practices are good or very good," he said.
"For the past three years, the number of metropolitan people who identify as vegan or vegetarian has remained stable at 7pc and of those, 14pc occasionally eat meat.
"At the same time, 15pc of meat eaters have been vegetarian in the past - so there's a high return rate to eating meat."
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