Beef needs to show a measurable progress

If anything, we need to be better at measuring

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Consumers are heavily invested in their belief that red meat is a major contributor to climate change and beliefs are difficult to shift.

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Last week's back page story "Beef must stop ignoring its large CO2 footprint" generated a range of reactions, so we thought we'd take a closer look.

For beef producers, the argument Jon Wright from Coota Park Blue E made is confronting right from the start, including the claim that beef contributes 70 per cent of agriculture's carbon emissions.

The reaction ranged from "thank you for recognising this is an issue" to "I wish this hysteria about climate change would disappear".

The reality is every time a mainstream media channel talks climate change, they fail to separate legacy carbon from carbon that's simply recycled in the atmosphere.

One of the phone calls The Land received after this article was published was from a farmer who has adopted regenerative agriculture principals, something we're increasingly seeing in this past couple of years.

He raised the point there were more impactful "whole system" approaches that could address the carbon balance before you even bothered looking at individual per head carbon emissions while also warning that livestock were part of the solution in a well managed system.

This included the potential for better quality pastures that might be produced as part of that management, which in turn could reduce net carbon output.

He also stressed the role of livestock as recyclers of carbon in the overall cycle.

However, it is perhaps fair to also assume that the public struggles to understand this.

Plus, feedlots have been invaluable through this drought in taking on animals that producers would otherwise struggle to finish, but feedlots don't tend to fit the regenerative model.

So, while the per-head approach is not a whole of system solution, when applied in the feedlot situation, what would that reduced carbon output be worth to the industry both in improved feed efficiency and in the ability to market a reduced carbon footprint?

And is an animal that's a more efficient converter on grain also a more efficient converter on grass?

Consumers are heavily invested in their belief that red meat is a major contributor to climate change and beliefs are difficult to shift.

So perhaps what we really need is to be better at measuring - whether on grain or grass - both for the producer's benefit, as well as for the discerning consumer.

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