Carbon footprinting of NZ lamb

An industry-led project involving the Meat Industry Association, MAF, Beef + Lamb NZ, Landcorp and Ballance Agri-Nutrients was carried out by AgResearch to determine the carbon footprint of NZ lamb throughout the life cycle to the UK consumer. The project involved application of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methods to determine the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (or carbon footprint) for all stages covering extraction of raw materials, farm, meat processing, transportation, retail, cooking, consumption and waste stages.

The research showed that relative GHG emissions through the life cycle were 80% to the farm gate stage, 3% for meat processing, 5% for all transportation including shipping, and 12% for the retail and consumer stages. It excluded the consumer transport to obtain the meat which could add up to another 7% to the total (i.e. more than all other transportation stages combined).

Case farm studies indicated that there are a range of options that can be used to make small reductions in GHG emissions on farm, with most potential associated with efficient feed conversion into meat. Analyses indicated that the NZ sheep industry has already made significant progress in reducing its GHG emissions over time. Compared to 1990, New Zealand sheep farmers in 2009 produced slightly more lamb meat by weight, but from a 43% smaller national flock. This productivity improvement is estimated to have reduced the GHG footprint by about 22%.

Related studies with other industry sector groups have also been carried out for milk, beef, venison and wool.