By the end of this year, 32,000 Irish farmers will launch their secret export weapon: an energy rating for beef. With an average beef herd numbering roughly 60 animals, by year end, approximately 2m cattle will be covered by an energy rating. The Department of Agriculture believes that beef with a low carbon footprint will be attractive to continental consumers. “We want an [energy] rating system like your fridge has.” commented the Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney.
If the Department of Agriculture plan is successful, not only will Irish beef be fully traceable and have a valued quality assurance mark, it will also quote the carbon footprint of the animal the beef came from. This initiative will be a world first and its hoped add a competitive advantage, boosting exports.
Bord Bia have suggested that while domestic consumers are very price conscious, buyers for supermarket chains across the EU rate sustainability highly enough to make this initiative a worthwhile investment.
How do you go about calculating the carbon footprint of an individual animal? Turns out its simpler than you might think. The starting point is measuring a farm’s production inputs; diesel, electricity, feed, water, fertiliser. You set this against the volume of beef produced and the time taken to produce it. End result, the carbon footprint per cow. 75% of Irish beef farmers have joined the scheme, called Origin Green.
Agri-food, tourism and high tech have been identified as key economic growth sectors and in the case of farming, it looks like the experts are putting their brains and money where your mouth is.
Image: Wikimedia Commons: Jibailleul