ecosystem Sustainability and the Red Meat Industry
– What is a sustainable ecosystem?
There is no straightforward definition of environmental sustainability. Many definitions include the concept of ‘living within the limits of what the ecosystem can provide’. In relation to the production of red meat in Australia this method using our natural resources, including soil, nutrients, water and biodiversity, sustainably.
– A sustainable ecosystem and the red meat industry
Australia proudly produces some of the world’s cleanest and greenest red meat and other agricultural products. For this to continue a sustainable ecosystem must be maintained. Sustainability issues are increasingly cited by consumers as a consideration when purchasing agricultural produce. And for this nation to continue to satisfy its own population and that of increasingly hungry overseas markets we must ensure environmental sustainability in Australia.
– Balancing ecosystem sustainability and financial viability
Intrinsically connected to environmental management and sustainability is the need for economic sustainability and viable regional communities. Without financial security the focus on sustainability initiatives tends to wane. Balancing financial viability and environmental sustainability in Australia is a challenge and one that the industry, researchers and farmers are working together to address. And it must be remembered that farmers in Australia must manage the twin challenges of sustainable environmental practices while trying to increase productivity in the context of a highly variable climate.
– Acknowledging the past and looking forward
Australia’s red meat industry acknowledges that past practices have had a detrimental impact on natural resources. It is widely known that early Australian farmers employed European techniques that were ill appropriate to this scenery. Due to this, and some government policies, land was degraded in some areas.
Today, there has been an environmental wakening and the majority of Australian farmers understand that if they want a sustainable business they need sustainable environmental practices. Many farmers see themselves as stewards of the land instead of land owners. There is now much scientific and other research undertaken to help farmers ensure they use the land sustainably. This includes research into managing water and soil resources, cutting carbon emissions and ensuring appropriate grazing strategies.
– Beyond the farm gate
Life cycle examination is now widely accepted as a valid way of looking at how sustainable a product is. This involves studying the impacts of its production, dispensing and ultimate consumption. The grain fed and processing sectors have major roles to play in ensuring the red meat industry is sustainable outside of the farm gate in Australia. It should be noted that both industries have made meaningful investments in cutting their environmental footprints, particularly relating to emission reductions and how they use water. Meat transport companies and retailers are engaged in programs to limit their environmental impacts.
Environmental management and sustainability is vital if Australian farmers are going to continue to produce some of the world’s best produce and meet the ever increasing need for quality food. Balanced with that is the need for economic sustainability in our farming operations.
If Australia is able to unprotected to this balance the red meat industry, including producers, processors, transporters and retailers, have a bright future.