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Study Concludes That Cutting Back on Meat and Dairy Consumption Won’t Have Major Impact on Global Warming

Cutting back on consumption of meat and dairy products will not have a major impact in combating global warming—despite repeated claims that link diets rich in animal products to production of greenhouse gases—according to a report by Dr. Frank Mitloehner, University of California, Davis, presented at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Mitloehner said that focusing on meat and dairy is not only scientifically inaccurate, but also distracts society from embracing effective solutions to global climate change. He noted that the notion is becoming deeply rooted in efforts to curb global warming, citing campaigns for “meatless Mondays” and a European campaign, called "Less Meat = Less Heat," launched late last year.

We certainly can reduce our greenhouse-gas production, but not by consuming less meat and milk. Producing less meat and milk will only mean more hunger in poor countries. The developed world should focus on increasing efficient meat production in developing countries where growing populations need more nutritious food. In developing countries, we should adopt more efficient, Western-style farming practices to make more food with less greenhouse gas production

—Frank Mitloehner

Transportation creates an estimated 26% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US, whereas raising cattle and pigs for food accounts for about 3%, he said. Mitloehner says confusion over meat and milk’s role in climate change stems from a small section printed in the executive summary of a 2006 United Nations report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” It read: “The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents). This is a higher share than transport.

Mitloehner says there is no doubt that livestock are major producers of methane, one of the greenhouse gases. But he faults the methodology of “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” contending that numbers for the livestock sector were calculated differently from transportation. In the report, the livestock emissions included gases produced by growing animal feed; animals’ digestive emissions; and processing meat and milk into foods. But the transportation analysis factored in only emissions from fossil fuels burned while driving and not all other transport lifecycle related factors.

This lopsided analysis is a classical apples-and-oranges analogy that truly confused the issue.

—Frank Mitloehner




Who funded his research?


"Transportation creates an estimated 26% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US, whereas raising cattle and pigs for food accounts for about 3%..."

Is this study really a surprise to anyone? Will the Goracle choke on his veggie burger?


On the other hand cutting back on consumption of meat will likely reduce incidence of heart disease, obesity and other human health issues.


Absolutely, it is a slight of hand. It does very little to reduce GHG (so we should not worry about it and have some fast food). Just the cost of all the heath care issues is enough to reduce the amount consumed.


A question always worth asking, ai_vin.

"Writing the synthesis was supported by a $26,000 research grant from the Beef Checkoff Program, which funds research and other activities, including promotion and consumer education, through fees on beef producers in the U.S."

Beef Checkoff Program:


The lack of protien is a recognised factor in the poor outcomes in brain development in much of the third (majority ) world.

I have friends with excess iron in the blood - a not uncommon medical condition that require a vegetarian or no red meat diet as well as periodic medical procedure involving blood removal to keep the excess iron under control.
My metabolism is opposite, I am recommended to and feel better dieting towards 'eat more and raw' so the health effects will vary wildly for each person.

The vegan/ vegetarian committment so often is belief based and dogmatic, one size fits all with a religious fervor. On that basis, I feel that the debate has little to do with facts and the emotive card is what its about.

The vegetarian Buddhists will say it is rude to offend ones host and will graciously eat what is offered on the table, If there is no better understanding of an individuals dietry requirement then everything in moderation is a sound approach.

I am saddened at the no of well meaning 'vegie' types who appear to suffer excessively with mainly mentally debilitating dietary related illness in the name of ethical morality.

I'd also rather see a field of trees than pasture as well as a move from methane making sheep and cattle and moves toward better animal husbandry practices.

Everything living dies someday, the aim should be for quality of life while applicable.

Re the cruelty aspect, many countries and citisens will treat thier pets and animals better than the disadvantaged. Vis India's sacred cows vs the untouchables and human rights abuses.

Re the emissions from livestock there are many components to this industry on both sides of the farm gate that contribute to poor environmental outcomes.
The real figure though is the difference between it and the other option. So the alternative's footprint is also most relevant.


If we are not supposed to eat animals, why did God make them out of meat?

[And I'm with Arnold.]

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