Silver Fern Farms to phase out charcoal by 2030 and embrace regenerative agriculture

Silver Fern Farms will stop using coal in its factories by 2030.

Mary-Jo Tohill / Stuff

Silver Fern Farms will stop using coal in its factories by 2030.

Silver Fern Farms, the country’s largest meat processor, has pledged to end the use of coal in its factories by 2030, ahead of government targets.

Co-chair Rob Hewett told the company’s supplier shareholders at its annual Farmers’ Conference in Wellington on Thursday that the move would contribute to its vision to be the world’s most sustainable grass-fed red meat company.

Silver Fern Farms secured government funding in April through the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority, which allowed it to ramp up plans for its Christchurch and Balclutha factories, which will allow it to halve its coal consumption by 2023. The government subsidy covers half the cost of $ 7.64 million. .

The company aims to reduce charcoal use by two-thirds by 2025 and phase out charcoal as a fuel in favor of woodchips by 2030. This is ahead of the government’s proposal that companies are phasing out coal boilers by 2037, as part of a series of measures to help the country meet its zero-emission goal by 2050.

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“We believe that our organization needs to evolve towards a more sustainable position,” said Managing Director Simon Limmer. Thing. “If we were to assess this on a purely financial basis, we would delay much longer, but we think it’s the right thing to do.

“These are important initiatives for us, so we are moving them to the top of the priority list from where they were a few years ago,” he said. “We also see opportunities to move faster than the 2030 deadline, which we hope we can do.”


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The meat company has 14 factories from Dargaville to Invercargill, some of which are 120 years old. Six of the plants used coal, and the total cost of mining the coal is expected to be $ 34 million.

The red meat industry is the country’s largest manufacturing industry and uses around 63,000 tonnes of coal per year, or about 6% of New Zealand’s total coal use, according to a 2019 submission on Meat Industry Association shows.

Alliance Group, the country’s second-largest meat processor, has confirmed it is on track to end the use of coal at its seven factories by 2029. The company had budgeted between $ 60 million and $ 70 million for the transition.

Silver Fern Farms also announced Thursday that it is committed to regenerative agriculture and will work alongside its supplier farmers to adopt eight key principles of regenerative agriculture aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of farms, as well as ” improve soil health, biodiversity, water quality and habitats, ecosystems, animal welfare and communities.

He will help a group of suppliers complete the “Land to Market” program of the Savory Institute, the world’s leading accreditation body for regenerative agriculture, with the goal of understanding how farmers can derive greater value from the market.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer said he expects the company and farmers to achieve higher yields from more sustainable products.


Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer said he expects the company and farmers to achieve higher yields from more sustainable products.

The company, which exports to more than 60 countries, plans to launch its first line of certified Toitū net zero carbon beef in the United States later this year.

The initial trial would involve 17 pilot farms selected because of their diverse locations, carbon attributes, and progressive farmers. They would receive a bounty for their animals.

About 30 percent of the beef and 10 percent of the lambs processed by the company have already attracted a premium through programs such as grass-fed or antibiotic-free foods.

“We have a new generation of consumers who are a lot more aware and think a lot more about what they’re eating and where it’s coming from,” Limmer said. “We believe there will be a comeback for the farmers and for us too.”

Silver Fern Farms has completed its third year of the Toitū Carbon Reduction and Certification program which allows a company to audit and verify its carbon footprint and analyze how it could be reduced. Its total emissions this year were the equivalent of 99,300 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 13% less than last year and 20% less than its base year.

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