WASHINGTON — The Center for Consumer Freedom claims Dr. Barry Popkin, the University of North Carolina nutrition professor who blamed meat producers on March 24 for contributing more to climate change than transportation, is ignoring Environmental Protection Agency data that directly contradict his claims.
Mr. Popkin argued in an editorial published in the Archives of Internal Medicine that Americans should reduce their meat consumption in part because a 2006 United Nations report suggests "livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, far greater than that of transportation." Mr. Popkin also said in a Reuters news story on March 25 he was "pretty surprised when I checked back and went through the data on emissions from animal food and livestock. I didn't expect it to be more than cars."
E.P.A. has characterized greenhouse-gas emissions related to the entire U.S. agriculture sector — including meat, grain, fruit, vegetable and fiber producers — as just one-third of what Mr. Popkin attributes to meat production alone, C.C.F. countered. Global estimates from the U.N. publication Mr. Popkin cited, "Livestock's Long Shadow," don't apply to American meat production, C.C.F. added.
E.P.A. released the 473-page "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2006," a complete account of global-warming-related emissions in the United States and their sources, in April 2008. This report concluded that "the agricultural sector was responsible for emissions of 454.1 teragrams of CO2 equivalent, or 6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions."
Greenhouse-gas emissions related specifically to meat production make up an even smaller part of the total — just 2.58%, E.P.A. data reveals.
"U.S. meat production contributes a laughably tiny amount of carbon emissions to the climate-change picture," said David Martosko, C.C.F. director of research. "The 2006 United Nations report mistakenly painted the United States with the same broad brush as China, Brazil and other countries. But our domestic livestock operations are far more efficient and environmentally friendly. If Popkin had actually checked the data, he'd know that. It's time for everyone, from the PETAs to the Popkins, to stop spreading environmental misinformation about meat."
The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies, and consumers, working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.
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