Save the planet: 'Buy Kiwi lamb'
The meat industry has reacted cautiously to a British website's suggestion that British consumers should buy New Zealand lamb if they want to help save the planet.
The claim is based on a study showing food production may be responsible for almost a third of the world's greenhouse gases.
The Mail Online yesterday quoted experts from international agricultural research organisation CGIAR saying Britons could reduce emissions and save money by importing efficiently reared lamb from New Zealand. By comparison, British farming methods produced twice as much greenhouse gas, the website reported.
The CGIAR study says food systems contribute up to 29 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, not the 14 per cent previously thought.
A 2006 Lincoln University report on the concept of "food miles" concluded that the energy used in producing British lamb was four times higher than that used by New Zealand lamb producers, even after including the energy used in transporting New Zealand lamb to the other side of the world.
The study's findings come as meat processor Alliance Group announced an exclusive deal to supply chilled Kiwi lamb to British retailer Marks & Spencer.
The meat will come from approved South Island farms that are part of the M&S Select scheme, which involves a traceability system monitoring farm management, animal origin and livestock records.
General manager marketing Murray Brown said Alliance had also just introduced a programme called Hoofprint which benchmarked the carbon footprint of 200 New Zealand farms against that of a handful of British producers. "It was one of the reasons that got us over the line [with M&S], as one of the initiatives we had in place that they were appreciative of."
Alliance was confident the New Zealand footprint would compare favourably, but these kinds of measurements were at an early stage and it would be "a bit careful" about making too many claims, he said.
Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie said New Zealand was at the forefront of research into measuring the carbon footprint of agricultural production.
However methodologies were not standardised globally. "The reality is, while we may be more efficient . . . it may be nothing like to the degree they're suggesting."
The New Zealand industry also complemented British lamb production, allowing for year- round supplies of the product and helping to keep it at the forefront of British shoppers' minds.
New Zealand would continue to make the most of its clean, green image but "not necessarily by decrying another country's production systems", Ritchie said.
Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said farmers in New Zealand had been forced to become extremely efficient when government support was withdrawn in the 1980s.
The country's sheep flock was now less than half of its peak of 70 million in 1982, but farmers still produced almost the same tonnage of sheepmeat. Growers struggled to get one lamb per ewe 30 years ago, but now most comfortably got 1.5. The average ewe size had gone up from 55 kilograms in the 1980s to 75kg today.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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