In the first major study of the carbon footprint of lamb, scientists have found that 80 per cent of that footprint is generated on the farm.
According to the findings, each 100 gram portion of New Zealand lamb exported to Europe creates 1.9 kilogramme of CO2 equivalents and that 80 per cent of that footprint is generated on the farm.
Productivity gains in New Zealand's farming sector mean more lamb meat is produced today than in 1990 but with a 43 per cent smaller national flock. This has led to an estimated 22 per cent reduction in lamb’s carbon footprint over that time period, say the scientists.
The aim of the study was to create a carbon footprint benchmark for New Zealand lamb and identify areas that can be targeted to further reduce emissions resulting from production and transportation of lamb, they say.
Dr. Stewart Ledgard, Principal Scientist at Agresearch, lead author of the report, said: "This represents the first detailed study of the carbon footprint of a New Zealand meat product that covers the whole life cycle from extraction of raw materials to farm production, processing, transportation, consumption and waste stages to the UK as one of our markets.
“Of the total carbon footprint of 1.9 kg CO2-equivalent/kg meat, 80 per cent was from the farm stage,
with 3 per cent from processing, 5 percent from transportation and 12 per cent from the retail and consumer stages.
“The study showed the farm stage was a significant part of the total carbon footprint and most of that was from natural processes associated with sheep utilising pasture as a feed source eg, 57 per cent of the total footprint was from methane produced during digestion of pasture. Our analyses showed that this component of the carbon footprint has decreased by over 20 per cent during the last 15 years as farmers have made large gains in efficiency of converting pasture to meat.”