Aussie red meat industry and sustainability, a new research study

Tuesday, 03 October, 2023

Aussie red meat industry and sustainability, a new research study

Improving the air, land, soil, water, animal health and regenerative agriculture practices within the meat and livestock industry are key areas of focus for a new study which is now underway across Australia.

The Food for the Future: Sustainability and Australia’s Red Meat Industry study is claimed to be the first and largest collaborative research project of its kind ever undertaken in Australia.

The study is co-funded by Australian organic global meat producer Hewitt and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), and coordinated in partnership with leading conservation organisations including Bush Heritage Australia. The project aims to demonstrate how combined sustainability actions (emissions reduction planning, enhanced biodiversity, improved natural capital outcomes and expanded regenerative agriculture techniques) can be successfully implemented within red meat supply chains.

“With almost 60% of the country managed for agriculture, working with farmers and landholders to understand, enhance and protect biodiversity enables meaningful impact at landscape scale,” said Nick Mogford, Executive Manager, Strategy and Growth, Bush Heritage Australia.

“Bush Heritage Australia has partnered with Hewitt on the biodiversity enhancement and natural capital components of the Food for the Future study. We’re looking forward to developing and establishing strong baseline information, appropriate management practices, ongoing measurement under the Accounting for Nature Framework.”

The study is being rolled out over two stages across 2023 and 2024, and will also be implemented with the assistance of Soil Land Food and Integrity AG & Environment. It will involve face-to-face workshops with producers across Australia who form part of Hewitt’s supplier network and deliver important educational opportunities for many graziers who may require a helping hand with supply chain certifications, new technologies or processes such as carbon baselining and greenhouse gas reporting.

“MLA is co-investing in this project as it will demonstrate the widespread environmental and sustainability activities and targets across industry, while also supporting the identification of market access opportunities for well-credentialled red meat,” MLA Managing Director Jason Strong said. “The project will also demonstrate how our industry supply chains can successfully implement positive action around carbon, biodiversity, natural capital and regenerative agriculture. It will create a strategy towards carbon neutrality, enhanced biodiversity, improved natural capital outcomes and expanded regenerative agriculture techniques.”

There will be five pillars to the Food for the Future: Sustainability and Australia’s Red Meat Industry study:

  1. Carbon Management — improving the understanding of supply chain greenhouse gas emissions on the land, from production to processing.
  2. Biodiversity — including conservation initiatives to complement on-farm production; and biodiversity action plans (eg, conservation strategies and monitoring).
  3. Natural Capital — strategies to highlight the link between natural resources on a property (plants, animals, air, water, soils, minerals), ecosystem services and on-farm profitability.
  4. Regenerative Agriculture — built on the principles of working with nature to build the health of natural systems (eg, soils and pastures). Developing improvement plans and workshops, including building drought resilience, soil health building, reducing synthetic inputs, increasing carbon storage and inspiring practice change across the supply chain.
  5. Market opportunities — identifying the existing and emerging opportunities to link producers and land managers with customers and consumers.

The Food for the Future study comes at a critical time for the Australian meat industry, as both federal and state governments have recently voiced a shared commitment to ensuring Australia becomes a world leader in ESG (environmental, social, governance) friendly agribusiness. Australian agriculture land managers are responsible for maintaining almost 60% of Australian landmass, which accounts for more than $6.5 trillion worth of natural capital assets. This places significant responsibility on the local sector, and also presents strong opportunities for environmental improvement.

“Protecting and preserving natural capital has always been very important to Hewitt,” said Hewitt Group CEO Mick Hewitt. “That’s why we were the first to put our hand up to be part of this groundbreaking research project. It will provide the insight our business and the industry need to take action to create sustainable, productive and profitable agribusinesses into the future.

“Our vision to ‘feed the world with a system that lasts forever’ is founded on the philosophy to treat animals, the land and people well. Improved environmental management will deliver better agricultural, business and climate outcomes across the industry.”

Top image caption: Hewitt Pegunny, Image credit: Jessica Howard photographer

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