Monday, April 22, 2024

SFF zero-carbon beef to hit US shelves

Neal Wallace
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Net carbon zero New Zealand beef will be in United States stores by Christmas.

The Silver Fern Farms (SFF) initiative will eventually include zero-carbon lamb and venison, calculated on the area of carbon sequestering vegetation on supplier farms.

Independently verified zero-carbon red meat is part of a suite of initiatives SFF is pursuing that is changing the traditional way the industry has operated.

This includes inviting suppliers to voluntarily adopt regenerative agriculture practices, which shareholders were told at an online roadshow this week, was in response to changing consumer demands.

“This is a strong answer to consumer concerns, which we need to make to win the hearts and minds and to make people continue to feel good about eating red meat,” chief executive Simon Limmer said.

The key is to be the first mover.

“This is potentially the biggest trend for red meat in decades but we are listening to the market and cannot let this opportunity pass,” SFF agribusiness and strategy programme manager Greg McSkimming said.

“Consumers want this and we see a huge opportunity. It is up to us to work out how to create a premium around it.

“It’s always about adding value.”

Consumer surveys show 59% want their red meat to be produced under regenerative agricultural practices for which they will pay a premium price.

McSkimming says the key was to measure and validate those practices.

A survey of SFF suppliers showed 80% felt their practices qualified as regenerative and 77% have adopted, on average, 17 of the 24 definitions required to meet its regenerative standards.

“You’re already doing a lot of it,” he told suppliers.

With the looming requirements of He Waka Eke Noa, farm environment plans, climate change and freshwater regulations, McSkimming says most of that information can be used to validate regenerative practices.

He says the fact farms sequester carbon is a positive red meat story.

SFF has been measuring carbon sequestering vegetation or removals from farms, which cannot be sold as credits but can be used to offset the carbon generated from beef production – 96% of which occurs on-farm.

This sequestration has been independently verified and only applies to the cut of beef being sold as net carbon zero, not the whole animal.

“Because the system both emits and sequesters carbon, it is a self-contained solution and it is a great marketing story,” he said.

SFF group marketing and innovation manager Nicola Johnston says Generation Z, currently aged 10 to 24, represent 24% of the global population and will be the primary influences of food production in the coming decades.

They were born in the internet era, are connected digitally and climate change tops their list of concerns.

“Their mantra is go green or go bust and they see regenerative agriculture as a potential solution,” Johnston said.

While a risk, she also sees an opportunity for sustainably produced grass-fed red meat that connects with their expectations and values.

The world has moved from an era where products were no longer focused on the individual to an era of production that improves people, society and the planet.

She says regenerative agriculture was an unstoppable international movement considered as a solution to many environmental problems.

Multinational corporations with a combined turnover of $700 billion, including Pepsi, Nestlé and Unilever, are committing to it and are asking questions about production systems used by their suppliers.

Limmer says the company’s plate-to-pasture strategy is even more important to respond to consumer demands and challenges such as plant based proteins.

This is possible because of the massive amount of customer and market information and data it collects through consumer surveys and customers accessing its website.

“My belief is it is a successful strategy and with what we have done to date, we have a long-term future,” Limmer said.

SFF chief customer officer Dave Courtney says SFF missed a potential US retail contract to a local supplier because it could not validate regenerative agricultural practices, which the competitor could.

He says regenerative agriculture is “a conversation happening on the ground today”, adding SFF is shifting management of its China sales to staff employed there, to allow for the local time zone, language, travel and being able to meet customers.

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