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Focus on carbon insets keeps recognition of environmental good within the cattle industry

By: Lyndsey Smith

June 20, 2022

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If you’re tired of hearing about carbon credits or carbon offsets, let’s switch gears and talk carbon insets.

A carbon inset credit is equal to a carbon offset — a metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent is either reduced or stored. The key difference, explains Dr. Sara Place, is that an offset is bought by a company or organization outside the value chain it comes from. An inset is different in that it is bought by another member of the value chain, such as a packer or end-user, that incentivizes the producer to reduce their emissions.

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Place is the chief sustainability officer with Elanco Animal Health, and she explains the difference between offsets and insets matters because the carbon reduction can only exist once, it can only be of value once. Put another way, does the cattle industry — with an incredible opportunity to create carbon credits — want to see other industries significantly reduce their carbon footprint, or does the industry need to focus on keeping the credits in-house?

It’s important to remember that key rule of no double-dipping on credits. Because of the one-and-done nature of a credit, there needs to be integrity to the process. But that also means that carbon reduction claims occurring in the beef value chain could end up as a celebrated achievement in another industry entirely if offsets are the sole focus.

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Listen on to my conversation with Dr. Sara Place recorded at the Canadian Meat Council’s 100th AGM in Ottawa in mid-June. We discuss not just insets, but also how methane reductions by the cattle industry don’t need to be zero to be impactful, and why we can’t lose sight of the value of animal protein in times of food scarcity: