Driving to neutral

Jul 30, 2019 | More from less

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The North Australian Pastoral Company (NAPCo) has launched the “Australia’s first certified carbon-neutral beef”. Five Founders is the first branded beef product for NAPCo and has been given carbon neutral accreditation based on Australian Government criteria.

NAPCo was founded in 1877 and manages around 200,000 cattle across Queensland and the Northern Territory. When deciding to sell its own meat cuts, market research indicated people wanted quality product that is also sustainable; carbon-neutral beef. It began a 12-month accreditation process as part of its journey to provide consumers with a unique beef product that builds on NAPCo’s animal welfare and environmental credentials.

Sound too good to be true? It sort of is. NAPCo engaged Pangolin and Integrity Ag Consultants to calculate the herd carbon footprint through a hybrid lifecycle assessment (LCA), which was then combined with estimated of energy-related emissions from the properties and feedlot. Genetic improvements that allow cattle to be processed at a younger age and therefore emit less methane reduced the carbon footprint and different feed and additives are being trialed to further reduce emissions.

NAPCo then calculated its carbon footprint and bought sufficient offshore carbon credits to achieve carbon neutral accreditation from the government. NAPCo CEO Phil Cummins acknowledges this is “the beginning of our carbon journey, not the end” and there will be more work done to reduce the operation footprint. NAPCo is committed to conservation activities and trialling carbon sequestration, as well as planting legumes and experimenting with feeds that help cattle add weight more efficiently and change rumen function to produce less methane.

It will be important that the journey continues and the reductions in carbon footprint through changed farming practices are real. If – like Australia meeting its Paris commitments – “carbon neutral beef” is simply an accounting trick it is unlikely to gain consumer trust and support.