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AgResearch to estimate sheep meat carbon footprint

AgResearch and industry partners win tender to estimate sheep meat carbon footprint

29 November, 2007

AgResearch today announced it had, in collaboration with industry partners, won a MAF tender to develop a model, based on Life Cycle Assessment methodology, to estimate the total greenhouse gases (GHG) or carbon footprint of New Zealand produced sheep meat consumed in the United Kingdom.

AgResearch’s General Manager for Agriculture and Environment Peter Benfell said the project was an important one for sheep meat exporters.

“As global consumers become more aware of the environmental footprint created by pastorally based foods, it is essential that we develop the capability to provide them accurate information.

“New Zealand sheep and lamb have enjoyed an enviable global reputation for quality. Now is the right time to demonstrate their relative sustainability using a robust methodology and cutting-edge science,” he said.

The project would be led by Dr Stewart Ledgard, Principal Scientist at AgResearch’s Ruakura Research Centre in Hamilton. Dr Ledgard is also the New Zealand representative on the Agricultural Working Group of the UK Carbon Trust.

Key industry groups including meat processing companies, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Landcorp, and Meat & Wool New Zealand would also contribute to the project in aspects of model design, data provision, system analysis of the model and technology transfer.

Much of the farm system data for use in the Life Cycle Assessment model will come from Meat & Wool New Zealand’s main farm categories, which cover a very wide range of production systems throughout New Zealand.

Specific data from Landcorp, covering extensive breeding and intensive finishing from two case-study farm systems, would also be used.

Fertiliser use contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and specific data relating to this would be provided by Ballance Agri-Nutrients, one of New Zealand’s largest fertiliser companies.

“It is important that New Zealand based suppliers of products to overseas markets are prepared with information on the carbon footprint of their products. This will enable them to better understand the potential for reducing their footprint and achieve a comparative advantage relative to products from other countries,” said Peter Benfell.

Sheep meat is a key product for this country’s primary sector and is worth $2.5 billion to New Zealand each year in exports.

The model developed by AgResearch will be used to identify ‘hot spots’ and examine sensitivities to different practices of the greenhouse gas footprint throughout the life-cycle of sheep meat products from farm through to consumer stages.

For example, the implications of different farm management practices will be examined to identify the potential to reduce the total greenhouse gas footprint of sheep meat.

The project is to commence immediately and is anticipated to be completed by 31st March 2009.

ENDS

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