By: Eric Mittenthal
Last week the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a new report on livestock’s impact on climate change with some important conclusions. While anti-meat groups were quick to claim the finding that 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are due to livestock is proof that meat production is harmful to the environment, the report’s findings actually suggest otherwise. The report says that the GHG’s can easily be reduced by 30 percent and explains how:
“Within livestock production systems, there is a strong link between resource use efficiency and the intensity of GHG emissions, notes FAO’s report. The potential for achieving emissions reductions lies in enabling all livestock producers to change to practices already being used by the most efficient operators”
This reaffirms what research has shown that the use of production technologies to improve efficiency is one of the most effective ways to reduce the environmental impact of meat production. It’s exactly what Dr. Frank Mitloehner, one of the world’s leading researchers on the environmental impact of meat production and the Chairman of the FAO Partnership on Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance, told us in a Meat Mythcrusher video a few months ago.
It’s also important to remember that the 14.5 percent number is a worldwide number which takes into account production inefficiencies and deforestation in lesser developed countries around the world. The FAO says that the greatest potential for cuts is found in low productivity ruminant livestock systems in South Asia, Latin America and Africa.
In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that meat production contributes 3.4 percent of the country’s GHG emissions. This is significantly less than the 31 percent for energy production and 26 percent for transportation. The U.S. meat industry provides a great example of technologies and efficiencies that can be used to reduce the environmental impacts and we continue to research additional ways to become more efficient to limit our environmental impact. These steps also have benefits beyond environmental impact as the FAO notes that many of the actions it recommends for improving efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions would also boost production – providing people with more food and higher incomes, with benefits for food security and poverty reduction.