Australia’s red meat processors can become carbon-neutral by 2030, the local trade body has announced.

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has commissioned Australia’s federal scientific research agency The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to look how the sector could meet the target. The CSIRO’s report is due next month.

“With industry commitment, the right policy settings and new investment in research, development and adoption, the Australian red meat industry can be carbon neutral by 2030,” MLA managing director Richard Norton said. “And we can be the first red meat exporting nation to do so.”

MLA revealed the project had identified a series of measures, including the expanded use of legumes and dung beetles in pastures and savannah fire management in northern Australia. Genetic selection and a potential vaccine to reduce methane production in the rumen were other opportunities, Norton said.

“These pathways don’t require the heavy hand of regulation,” Norton said. “What they do require is the commitment of industry, the right policy settings from federal and state governments, and a continued investment in research, development and adoption of innovation within industry.”

Norton said working on making Australia’s red meat sector carbon-neutral could give it a competitive advantage and help mitigate against the growth in demand for alternatives to meat – and the investment in businesses in the emerging category.

“There are clear market signals in our high value international markets that emissions from livestock production are an issue for consumers who are also increasingly interested in the provenance of their food. At the same time, global companies and billionaire entrepreneurs are investing big dollars in projects to manufacture cultured and synthetic beef to try and lay claim to having zero environmental and welfare impact.

“The red meat industry has already reduced its share of Australia’s total emissions from 20 percent of Australia’s 600 million tonnes total emissions in 2005 to just 13% in 2015.

“MLA now believes our industry can achieve a carbon neutral goal, while driving productivity gains and further differentiating Australian red meat from low cost competitors and artificial alternatives.

“This will ensure Australian red meat remains the natural choice in the high value international markets that reward quality, product integrity and ethically and environmentally sustainable production systems.”