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Carbon neutral and DEXA under the senate spotlight

11 April 2019


MLA is required to appear at senate hearings twice a year as part of its matched research dollar-for-dollar funding agreement with the Federal Government.

Solid progress is being made on two of the red meat industry’s most ambitious, high profile and promising initiatives, a senate estimates hearing in Canberra was told last week.

Questioning from the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee centered around the progress being made in the red meat industry’s bid to be carbon neutral by 2030 and the roll-out of Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry, or DEXA, technology in processing plants.

MLA Managing Director Jason Strong told senators MLA was committed to both programs.
He said they come off the back of work identifying the big challenges to the red meat industry moving forward, and also position the industry to deal with those challenges.

“We have to be thinking about what we need to move the needle and make a big difference,” Jason said.

“Having more information is one of the ways to do that.”

Carbon neutral by 2030 (CN30)

The carbon neutral plan, known as CN30, was announced in 2017 at MLA’s annual Red Meat event and is about taking action to get in front of claims against the industry with respect to impacts of climate change and carbon production.

Various research initiatives, brought together by CSIRO, suggested carbon neutrality was possible for the industry in that time-frame and will significantly contribute to Australian beef and lamb’s competitive offering in the global market.

In fact, since the CN30 target was announced, a large US hotel group has selected Australian red meat over other global suppliers based predominantly on that goal.

MLA is currently working with individual producers to provide examples of current carbon balances and to determine which approaches to adopt to close the carbon balance to neutral.

Over the next 12 months, 50 case studies Australia-wide will be conducted, which will provide the best pathways for the industry to be carbon neutral by 2030 or earlier. Jason told senators there were already examples of individual producers who’ve taken proactive steps and are now in a position to be able to claim a carbon-positive production system.

DEXA technology

Another big target announced by MLA, this time in 2016, was the roll-out and adoption of DEXA beef and sheep units in all AUS-MEAT-registered plants across the country.

DEXA technology provides timely, accurate and objective information on the lean meat, bone and fat composition of each carcase.

MLA is committed to responding to the widespread calls, both from producers and governments, for the industry to have more transparent interactions along the supply chain – likely to be a key aim in the impending Meat Industry Strategic Plan, which lays out the future direction and goals for the red meat and livestock industry.

Objective measurement technologies, including DEXA, are a significant and practical way for increasing industry transparency and MLA has invested $40 million to date on completed, underway and contracted projects in this space.

MLA kick-started the initiative for a whole-of-industry shared investment to see DEXA installed in facilities. An industry taskforce to ascertain how the initiative could be rolled out is still working to secure agreement on a suitable funding model for whole-of-industry adoption.

In the meantime, MLA is working with private processors to adopt the technology using a combination of private investment on their part and MLA Donor Company funding.

Last month, three lamb processors signed MLA DEXA contracts to install systems in their facilities.
Jason told senators the DEXA discussion was closely tied to investment in innovation.