Poultry looks into carbon neutral future

The egg industry has already made improvements, with some farmers transitioning to solar power.
The egg industry has already made improvements, with some farmers transitioning to solar power.

Australia's chicken meat and egg industries are mapping out a way to become carbon neutral.

Chicken meat and egg production already have a relatively low carbon footprint, but AgriFutures Australia and Australian Eggs want to move towards zero emissions, and have invested about $500,000 to make it happen.

Dr Stephen Wiedemann, from agri-environmental consulting firm Integrity Ag and Environment, has been engaged by the two companies to lead research that will first identify what part of the production process is most carbon-intensive.

"Reducing to zero emissions is fairly hard," he told AAP on Friday.

"We'll also be looking at ways to offset any emissions that remain."

The scientist expects electricity usage could be one area where emissions are high, given both chicken meat and egg production require air-conditioning.

Dr Wiedemann said the biggest driver of the industry's carbon footprint is the manufacture of chicken feed on farms, which could be managed by changing the birds' diet.

Australian Eggs managing director Rowan McMonnies said the industry has used community concern about climate change as an opportunity to improve sustainable production.

"There are substantially more people, all of whom have sustenance and nutritional needs, and want to have less or a minimised impact on the environment," he told AAP on Friday.

"It's an enormous challenge but one we are embracing earnestly."

He argued carbon-neutral eggs can be produced for as little as a few extra cents per dozen.

The egg industry has already made recent environmental improvements, with some farmers transitioning to solar power.

"Instead of looking at environmental issues as a threat, it's been hugely positive the way the industry has transitioned in recent years towards a more progressive footing," Mr McMonnies said.

Agrifutures Australia managing director John Harvey said with chicken - the most consumed meat in the country - anything the industry can do to lower its footprint will have a significant impact.

The research project is expected to be completed by November 2021.

Australian Associated Press