Silver Fern Farms, a New Zealand-based producer of 100 percent grass-fed beef, lamb, and venison, is working to address the climate crisis with its Net Carbon Zero by Nature program. The co-operative partners with 16,000 farmers across the country to create carbon-neutral meat products while utilizing scalable, technologically driven solutions.
The Net Carbon Zero initiative works to reduce emissions across the entire value chain. “We spent hundreds of hours with farmers to really understand their farming systems,” Kate Beddoe, Silver Fern Farm’s Chief Sustainability Officer, tells Food Tank.
The initiative identified and classified 74 different types of vegetation into broader categories that could sequester carbon effectively. This was made possible through partnerships with two companies, Lynker Analytics and Carbon Forest Services: the first has satellite mapping and AI capabilities, while the latter specializes in forestry and carbon sequestration rates.
“100 percent of end-to-end emissions in Silver Fern Farms’ Net Carbon Zero by Nature products have been inset– naturally sequestered by on-farm vegetation, leading to a more biodiverse and resilient landscape,” Beddoe states.
Utilizing their research, Silver Fern Farms provides guidance to partner farms in the pilot program on how to develop best practices for land management to maximize carbon sequestration and biodiversity outcomes. “More than 1,500 farmers have directly taken part in our ‘Know Your Number’ workshops throughout New Zealand to better understand farm emissions,” Beddoe tells Food Tank.
A key aspect of the Net Carbon Zero initiative is Silver Fern Farms’ partnership with Māori communities. “We know that to become a nature positive producer, we need to collaborate with the expertise of mana whenua (local people of the land) and incorporate Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) into our practices,” Beddoe states. Their company values of Always Caring, Unstoppable Together, and Improving Tomorrow are underpinned by Māori values: manaakitanga, kotahitanga and kaitiakitanga. Beddoe explains that these values inform every decision that Silver Fern Farms makes across the value chain.
To ensure credibility, Silver Fern Farms works with Toitū Envirocare, an independent certifier. Their Net Carbon Zero claims are verified based on the British Standards Institute measure called PAS2050. Silver Fern Farms have also obtained labeling approval from the USDA on their Net Carbon Zero claims.
Silver Fern Farms recognizes the need to adapt in the face of the climate crisis. The program has issued its first climate crisis Risk and Opportunities Disclosure, aligning its practices to the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework. This means the partner farms are transparently reporting on their financial risks and opportunities related to global warming, an important aspect of sustainable business practices.
Silver Fern Farms is excited about the potential of new strategies and technologies to enhance its sustainability practices and efforts. “Climate innovation is a major focus of our Sustainability Action Plan,” Bedoe says. “We’ve made significant progress in implementing bold initiatives to cut emissions and establish Silver Fern Farms as a leader in sustainable food production.”
And Beddoe remains optimistic: “In a world of declining trust– trust you can trace back to New Zealand is highly valuable. That really is creating goodness from the farms the world needs.”
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Photo Courtesy of Silver Fern Farms