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
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 M Mitloehner, Maurice Pitesky DVM, Kim Stackhouse. “Clearing the air: Livestock’s contribution to climate change” (ACS 239 Paper 83)
Kimberly R. Stackhouse, Michelle S. Calvo, Yuee Pan, Dr. Yongjing Zhao PhD, Dr. Frank M. Mitloehner. “Emissions from Holstein and black Angus-cross feedlot steers and calves”(ACS 239 Paper 84)
Sara E. Place, Scott W. Hamilton, Edward J. DePeters, Jeffery A. McGarvey, Jeremy Lathrop, Frank M. Mitloehner. “Effects of dietary monensin on greenhouse gases from lactating dairy cows and waste” (ACS239, Paper 85)
Kimberly R Stackhouse, Sara E Place, Michelle S Calvo, Yuee Pan, Dr. Yongjing Zhao, Dr. Frank M Mitloehner. “Effects of biotechnology on greenhouse gases in feedlot cattle” (ACS 239, Paper 86)
Qian Wang, Frank M Mitloehner. “Effects of birdsfoot trefoil on nitrogenous gases from dairy cows and manure” (ACS 239 Paper 87)