Buy NZ lamb to save planet – UN

November 3, 2012

British farmers have been quiet about food miles since research began to show that meat produced here had a smaller carbon footprint than theirs in spite of the distant it travels to market.

That has now been backed up by a United Nations study which produced the headline of the week in the Daily Mail:

Buy New Zealand lamb to save the planet, say UN scientists – because British farming methods produce twice as much greenhouse gas:

British shops should sell New Zealand lamb rather than homegrown meat if they want to help protect the environment, experts have claimed.

The suggestion, likely to outrage British farmers, comes after a study found the amount of man-made greenhouse gases from food production is twice as much as previously estimated.

Growing food for sheep, cows and pigs takes up far more land and emits more greenhouse gases than producing crops for human consumption.

And some methods produce more harmful gases than others, they said.

The study claims Britain, for instance, would be better off importing lamb from New Zealand which has been produced more efficiently than on its own farms. . .

This could be used as an argument for going vegetarian but a lot of land which is suitable for grazing animals isn’t suitable for cropping.
The report doesn’t go into the environmental and economic impact or animal welfare concerns of killing all the farm animals if their pasture was converted to crop land.
A media release on the report from  the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR) says:
. . . While previous studies have looked at the contribution of agriculture to emissions, Climate Change and Food Systems assesses the entire food system’s emissions “footprint”—in total somewhere between a fifth and third of the greenhouse gases emitted by people on this planet.  This figure accounts for every aspect of food production and distribution—including growing crops and raising livestock, manufacturing fertilizer, and storing, transporting and refrigerating food. Agriculture accounts for around 80 percent of these emissions, but the combined contribution of transport, refrigeration, consumer practices and waste management is growing. . .
Crops also need fertiliser, storage, transport and refrigeration and contribute to waste.
However, the report does vindicate those of us who say that bringing agriculture into the ETS when none of our competitors are faced with similar penalties would do no good.
It would impose costs on what the UN recognises as very efficient food production and provide a perverse incentive for farming in other countries with less efficient systems.

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