When the beef and sheep environmental roadmap project was launched in 2008, its aim was to deliver a better understanding of the environmental challenges facing the industry and to develop messages on practical ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the sector.
Nearly four years into the work – and make no mistake this is an ongoing project – we have just launched the third chapter of our roadmap, Down to Earth. Together with the first two instalments, Change in the Air and Testing the Water, the roadmaps should be viewed as a single cohesive document, examining a broad range of issues connected to the overall carbon hoofprint of the English beef and lamb sector and giving us a far better understanding of the problems and how we can address them.
This includes not only the direct contribution of emissions from livestock but covers energy and water use, economic returns, landscape and biodiversity value and waste in the supply chain.
We have a target of reducing emissions by 11% by 2020. The research we have completed and the target efficiency levels we have included in the roadmap work are steering the industry towards this. There is no quick fix though, and the very lifecycle and nature of the animals we raise means change cannot happen overnight.
The information in the first two chapters of the roadmap has become a widely-quoted, authoritative source on the carbon footprint of the beef and lamb production sector, not just in England but in the wider UK, Europe and even further afield.
However, if we truly want to reduce the carbon footprint of the beef and lamb industry we must look beyond the farm gate and examine each element of the supply chain, from farm to fork. For this reason, Down to Earth includes contributions from the retailers which show not only the diverse range of approaches to tackling the carbon footprint but also a willingness to improve and a desire to share good practice. Every link in the chain shares a common goal: a healthy, sustainable and profitable beef and lamb industry.
Climate change remains one of the biggest challenges for our sector. As acknowledged in the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan, sector roadmaps, such as this one and those produced by other AHDB divisions, are important vehicles for changing practices to improve production efficiency. We remain as committed as ever to research that highlights the key drivers to efficiency and delivers practical measures that can help producers, processors and all others in the beef and sheep meat supply chain reduce our environmental impact.