For the first time, a study has revealed the complete carbon footprint of a New Zealand lamb chop exported to Europe.

The carbon footprint of a lamb chop has been revealed by a study which found that every 100g of New Zealand lamb exported to Europe creates 1.9kg of greenhouse gas emissions.

The study is relevant to New Zealand shoppers because most of the emissions – 80 per cent – are generated on the farm and just 5 per cent by shipping lamb to Europe.

AgResearch scientists tracked lamb from paddock to plate, measuring the gases produced by the sheep, cooking, refrigeration and transport. They found shoppers could cut their impact by choosing chilled meat rather than frozen and avoiding microwave defrosting of meat.

Lamb’s greenhouse gas footprint was measured in CO2 equivalents, although only a small proportion of the emissions were actually CO2 – the majority was methane from cow burps and nitrous oxide from sheep excrement on the soil: short-lived but potent greenhouse gases which are multiplied several times over to get the equivalent in CO2.

Meat Industry Association, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Landcorp, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry paid for the study because they wanted to find out where in the lamb’s supply chain they could most easily cut greenhouse gases.

The study was done in accordance with UK carbon labelling standards, so the information can be used on carbon footprint labels that are being rolled out by British food chains.

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