IT’S not kangaroos but chickens that are likely to supplant steaks in the family menu in a carbon-neutral world.
A month after the Government’s climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, advocated kangaroo farming as an alternative to methane-belching sheep and cattle, Treasury has suggested the chook might step into the breach.
It predicted yesterday “demand shifts” away from emission-intensive products such as beef to less-polluting produce such as chickens.
Treasury’s modelling assumes farming will come under Australia’s emissions trading scheme — due to start in 2010 — a full five years later. The late start reflects the difficulties in measuring the sector’s emissions because the amount of gases released can vary by cattle breed or soil type.
Last month, Professor Garnaut proposed that the number of cattle and sheep in the rangelands be reduced by seven million and 36 million respectively, to make way for greenhouse-friendly kangaroos. “This would create the opportunity for an increase in kangaroo numbers from 34 million today to 240 million by 2020,” his report said.
The kangaroo option was noticeably absent from the modelling released yesterday, but Treasury did note the effects of emissions trading on the livestock industry.
The output from the sheep and cattle industry fell by 6.2 to 12.7per cent, compared with the “no change” baseline, once government started putting a price on carbon emissions. By comparison, output from “other animal” industries rose by 1.7 to 4.6 per cent.
But Brett de Hayr, chief executive of the grazing group Agforce in Queensland, said Treasury had counted only the greenhouse costs of the livestock industry, and not its benefits. “At the moment, we’re technically counted the same as a power station but we actually do sequester a lot of carbon,” he said.
Large tracts of grazing land are forested, with native vegetation soaking up carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.
Mr de Hayr predicted that consumer tastes would overrule Treasury predictions. “If they wanted to move away from (steaks), they would have, so I think people are voting with their stomachs now,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll see many chooks slapped on the barbie.”