N.C.B.A. refutes environmental impact study

by Bryan Salvage
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KANSAS CITY, MO. — The average meat consumption throughout the world could be cut by 10% to reduce the already substantial impact of livestock production on greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study titled "Food, livestock production, energy, climate change, and health." This is the fifth study in a series on Energy and Health published by The Lancet medical journal, relays SustainableBusiness.com.

Such a move would also reduce health risks associated with very high consumption of red meat, the study claims.

The global average meat consumption is currently 100g (3.5 ounces) per person per day, with about a 10-fold variation between high-consuming and low-consuming populations. A proposed working global target is 90g (3.2 ounces) per day, shared more evenly, and with not more than 50g (1.8 ounces) per day coming from red meat from ruminants (i.e., cattle, sheep, goats, and other digastric grazers), the study relays.

Authors of the study claim global agricultural activity, especially livestock production, accounts for approximately "one-fifth of total greenhouse-gas emissions, thus contributing to climate change and its adverse health consequences, including the threat to food yields in many regions. Particular policy attention should be paid to the health risks posed by the rapid worldwide growth in meat consumption, both by exacerbating climate change and by directly contributing to certain diseases."

The study's authors said worldwide consumption of meat and the intensity of emissions from livestock production must be reduced in order to prevent increased greenhouse-gas emissions increasing from this sector.

But a spokesman from the National Cattlemen’s Association refutes these claims and statistics and told MEATPOULTRY.com, "According to the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. agriculture is a minor source of greenhouse gases [G.H.G.], accounting for just under 6% of annual emissions. The most recent E.P.A. report on G.H.G. shows that livestock production accounts for less than 3% of total annual U.S. G.H.G. emissions."

At the same time, livestock production can provide important sources of soil carbon sequestration, renewable energy and other greenhouse gas offsets, the spokesman continued. "The beef industry also uses a considerable amount of by-products from human food, fiber and biofuel production that would otherwise be discarded and become a source of greenhouse gases within a landfill," the spokesman said. "In fact, the beef industry overall has advanced to the point where we raise more food today with fewer environmental resources than ever before. And that’s increasingly important given that 49 million Americans are low on food, according to a new U.S.D.A. report.

"We believe in advancements like these that will continue to provide our growing population with high-quality, wholesome and affordable protein," the spokesman concluded.

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