Study finds New Zealand beef and lamb among lowest carbon footprints in the world

A new study has found New Zealand beef and lamb have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world.

Farmers are now urging the Government to rethink current methane emissions targets.

Today fewer sheep are farmed in New Zealand compared to 20 years ago.

"So this means that we have much less emissions of methane from these animals," said AgResearch scientist Dr Andre Mazzetto.

The AgResearch study also found that since 1990 there's been a 30 percent reduction in absolute greenhouse gases from sheep and beef farming.

"The analysis shows that New Zealand beef and lamb's carbon footprint is among the lowest in the world," said Beef and Lamb NZ's chief executive Sam McIvor.

"We consider ourselves the ultimate environmentalists. We take huge pride in looking after our land and looking after our animals," said Mt Somers Station owner Kate Acland.

The study found that a kg of New Zealand sheepmeat has a carbon footprint of just under 15 kilograms of CO2 equivalent emissions per kg.

"The full life cycle of the beef produced in New Zealand was about 22kg CO2 per kg of meat, compared to 35kg of CO2 per kg of meat in the US for example," Dr Mazzetto said.

New Zealand's on-farm footprint is about half the average of other countries in the study, because the animals here are farmed on pasture year-round.

"That's different from countries like US or Europe that have indoor animals and produce feed for the animals," Dr Mazzetto said.

Scientists used a new metric to measure the warming impact of the emissions, as well as the traditional method to measure the impact of methane.

"What the different metric shows is that methane has been overstated over time," Dr Mazzetto said.

Sequestration from trees planted on-farm may also be helping, acting like a carbon sink.

"We're calling on the Government to reduce the methane emissions targets to reflect this new science," McIvor said.

"This research just shows that if we're going to look at pricing emissions, we need to be really cautious when we do it," Acland said.

Greenpeace says reducing livestock numbers is an essential pathway to emissions reduction. But they're concerned that intensive dairying is still increasing which it says is an even worse polluter.