Australia’s red meat and livestock industry makes headway in emission reduction: CSIRO report

Olivia FordCountryman
Cattle at the Mount Barker saleyards.
Camera IconCattle at the Mount Barker saleyards. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

Australia’s red meat and livestock industry has slashed its net greenhouse emissions by 78 per cent since 2005, a new report has found.

Meat and Livestock Australia this week released the findings of the CSIRO-led study, which provided emission estimates based on the 2021 Australian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

The report stated the red meat industry’s net greenhouse gas emissions were 31 Mt CO2-equivalent in 2021, which represents a 78 per cent decrease in 16 years.

MLA Carbon Neutral 2030 project manager Julia Waite said impacts in the land use sector were a big contributor to the reduction.

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MLA Carbon Neutral 2030 project manager Julia Waite.
Camera IconMLA Carbon Neutral 2030 project manager Julia Waite. Credit: LinkedIn

“Low rates of clearing and greater volumes of regrowth have contributed to a larger pool of carbon on land associated with livestock management, bringing down the collective position of the sector,” she said.

“The contribution from land use change was particularly significant between 2020 and 2021 due to high rainfall, which was 9 per cent above the historical average, and conditions favourable for vegetation growth during La-Nina.”

Ms Waite said results were “especially stark” considering the previous two reporting years which were impacted by bushfires and drought.

The report found the biggest contributor to emissions in the livestock industry was methane from grazing beef cattle.

CSIRO used the Full Carbon Accounting Model, a calculating tool that draws on satellite imagery, to measure sequestration attributable to the red meat industry and the change in Australian landscape.

Meat and Livestock Australia has co-invested $152 million to support net emission reductions of the red meat supply chain since 2017.

Ms Waite said there were many tools in the modern age that were being used to help cut back on emissions, including manure management and the use of renewable energy.

“Novel interventions like low methane pastures, supplements, and genetic indexes are likely to play a bigger role in the later part of the decade, provided they are commercially viable with co-benefits for the whole farm business,” she said.

“Over time this can reduce the reliance on sequestration.”

The Australian red meat industry committed in 2017 to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.

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