Buy NZ lamb to help save planet

Britons should buy New Zealand lamb to save the planet, a UK report says.

The Mail Online says the suggestion follows a study from agricultural research organisation CGIAR which found up to 29 per cent of human-made greenhouse gases come from food production, not 14 per cent as previously thought.

Emissions could be reduced and money saved by importing efficiently reared lamb from New Zealand, as British farming methods produce twice as much greenhouse gas, the experts say.

The comments come as Kiwi meat processor Alliance Group announces an exclusive deal to supply chilled lamb to British retailer Marks & Spencer.

The suggestion of buying New Zealand lamb over the homegrown product will no doubt prove controversial with UK farmers.

British National Farmers Union representative Nathan Alleyne told the Mail Online: 'I don't think we'd be coming out in support of that measure, but we'd need to read the report before commenting on it.'

Alliance Group said this morning it will be the sole supplier of chilled New Zealand lamb to Marks & Spencers from Christmas this year, sourcing lambs from approved farms across the South Island.

It was the first time Marks & Spencer had agreed to an exclusive deal from a New Zealand supplier. The Kiwi farms will be part of the M&S Select scheme and a traceability management system that monitors farm management, animal origin and livestock records, it said.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said New Zealand was one of the most efficient lamb producers in the world.

Kiwi farmers had been forced to become efficient when government support was withdrawn in the 1980s. The nation's sheep flock was now less than half of its peak of 70 million in 1982, but farmers still produced almost the same amount of tonnage of sheep meat, he said.

A generation ago growers struggled to get one lamb per ewe, whereas now most comfortably got 1.5. On his own Hawke's Bay farm he got 1.8. In addition the average ewe size had gone up significantly - in the 1980s it was 55kg, but today it is 75kg.

"Although we're getting fewer lambs in total we're taking these lambs to much heavier weights before we put them on the ships.

"That's the very proud story that New Zealand farming can tell, and we have had to do that because we're the least subsidised agricultural producing country on this planet."

Overseas delegations regularly visited New Zealand to study its efficient farming systems, he said.