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What is the environmental impact of beef and lamb in the Australian diet?

The water and cropland footprint of Australian beef and lamb impacts are relatively low in the Australian diet – Australian lamb production is already climate neutral and this can be achieved for beef through adoption of pathways outlined in the Carbon Neutral by 2030 Roadmap.

Research shows that compared to other foods consumed in the Australian diet, the water and cropland footprint of Australian beef and lamb is low because their production is typically not reliant on irrigation and occurs predominantly on marginal land not suitable for cropping.

The 2021 research shows that lamb is one of only two foods (along with rice) in the Australian diet that are climate neutral – this means current production is not contributing to additional global temperature rise.

Through pathways outlined in the Carbon Neutral by 2030 Roadmap, the Australian red meat industry is  reducing the climate impact of beef production.

Farmers like the Coffey family believe environmental responsibility goes hand in hand with productivity, ensuring that red meat can be good for the planet:

 

Should I be eating less red meat for the environment?

Australian research shows the environmental impact of the diet is largely determined by the amount of food consumed. Therefore, to consume a sustainable diet, all foods, including red meat, should be eaten in amounts recommended for good health.

When it comes to red meat, sustainable consumption in a healthy diet is three to four healthy, balanced red meat meals a week, in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Compared to eating less red meat, the research found that production and waste reduction strategies as outlined in the Australia’s red meat and livestock industry’s CN30 Roadmap are more effective ways to reduce the environmental impact of a healthy diet.

Australia’s red meat and livestock industry is committed to supporting sustainable production and consumption of red meat in a healthy diet. Progress has already been made in terms of the amount of water required to produce beef and in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. More industry initiatives are now underway as part of CN30 to reduce waste, make better use of land, invest in renewables and support reforestation.

Australian beef industry has reduced carbon emissions by over 50% and Australian Lamb is Climate Neutralements.png

 

Is it more environmentally friendly to eat less red meat?

 

To lower the environmental impact of a healthy diet, Australian research found that production and waste reduction strategies are key.

While eating all foods, including red meat, in line with Australian Dietary Guidelines is important for a healthy diet, production and waste reduction strategies have the greatest potential to reduce the environmental impact of the Australian diet.

Only two foods are currently climate neutral, lamb and rice. Climate neutral means its production is not contributing to additional global temperature rise.

Some plant-based meat alternatives like tofu and legumes, have lower climate impacts but higher water footprints compared to beef. Others, such as chicken and pork have higher cropland footprints compared to beef and lamb.

Most of the environmental impacts of agricultural commodities such as red meat occurs during its production and by adopting practices outlined in the CN30 Roadmap, climate neutral beef production can be achieved.

Through the Beef and Sheep Sustainability Frameworks, Australia’s red meat and livestock industry is committed to supporting adoption of sustainable practices.


Did you know?

  • Lamb is one of only two climate neutral foods in the current Australian diet. 
  • Plant-based alternatives to red meat such as tofu and legumes can have a higher water-scarcity footprint than red meat.
  • Poultry and pork have a greater cropland-scarcity impact than red meat.