In a world where environmental concerns are growing by the day, one local's journey through the red meat industry offers a glimpse into the future of one of the oldest sectors of the Australian economy.
While the meat industry has taken strides in reducing emissions - reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 64 per cent since 2005 - that progress has slowed in recent years, prompting fears the sector will miss its goal of going carbon neutral by 2030 without more investment and action.
That's where people like Stephen Hatch come in.
Mr Hatch works as an environmental adviser for the Thomas Foods International abattoir, one of three large-scale abattoirs in Tamworth, and when it comes to the impact of red meat on the environment, improving sustainability is Mr Hatch's bread and butter.
Mr Hatch gave the Leader a look at the red meat industry through his eyes as part of the Australian Meat Processor Corporation's More to Meat campaign, which advertises the ways in which red meat processing creates jobs in Tamworth and regional Australia.
"I've always been interested in the sciences and the environment, and fortunately for me there's a position here for environmental sustainability that I can apply my skills to ... a lot of what I'm involved in now is finding opportunities in the process for long-term improvement," Mr Hatch said.
According to research published by the Australian Government's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, agriculture produced 16.8 per cent of of the country's greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 to 2021, with nearly 80 per cent of the sector's emissions coming from methane produced by livestock.
Curbing these emissions isn't a simple task, especially for regional areas like Tamworth which depend heavily on farming to sustain its local economy.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing is the second-most valuable industry in Tamworth by output, as well as the region's sixth largest employer.
However, Mr Hatch will be the first to tell you there are many ways the sector is working to reduce its carbon footprint and become more environmentally-friendly.
The Tamworth native said he saw many initiatives to cut methane emissions when he used to work in meat production from 2012 to 2022.
After finishing a bachelor's degree in Environmental Science last year, Mr Hatch was offered his current job by Thomas Foods International.
Even after moving to the processing side of the meat industry, the environmental adviser says he sees many opportunities for improving sustainability, from cutting down on the abattoir's natural gas and electricity consumption to "simple things like water flow restrictions in areas where we don't necessarily need high flow".
"Tamworth being a regional town, water security is a big one. We want to use that resource as wisely as we can," he said.
He also mentioned looking into processes to improve wastewater quality, which may help industrial water recycling projects in the future.
Of course, saving the planet isn't a job for just one person, and Mr Hatch says there's plenty of work available in the red meat industry for people interested in sustainability.
"A lot of people see the red meat industry as a one-job thing, but it can be very diverse. There's a lot of different aspects to a plant like ours you can be involved with," he said.
"I don't think that's seen enough in the broader community. I think everybody just thinks an abattoir is an abattoir and it's the same sort of job day-in day-out."
And for Mr Hatch, the best part of the job is navigating the challenges that arise while pushing the industry to become environmentally sustainable.
"The challenge and the accomplishment. Making it work day to day and being able to succeed at improving systems that have been around for a while, things people have tried and can't figure out. If I can find a way to improve a process that's been around for a long time it's very satisfying," he said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.