Last week the Washington Post launched yet another series evaluating meat consumption in the U.S. as part of its “In Theory” opinion blog. This follows a recent Wonkblog post written by an intern headlined “Meat is Horrible,” which was so riddled with errors, a correction noting significant revisions had to be added by editors after the Meat Institute and others pointed the mistakes out.
As a blog dedicated to “taking on a big idea in the news and exploring it from a range of perspectives,” in theory “In Theory” would offer a balanced perspective on the meat consumption and its environmental impact. Unfortunately editors chose to reject a range of perspectives for two opinions urging that we reduce meat consumption for our health and the environment and one cattlemen bravely fighting back. It is clear the Post editors continue to believe two premises as accepted fact that aren’t at all: that everyone agrees that we consume too much meat and meat production is a major contributor to climate change.
The North American Meat Institute responded to this latest attack with a letter which editors offered to include in the weekly newsletter recapping each series. The letter, which summarizes the science, is reposted below. Unfortunately it’s a tough topic to respond to in just 300 words so we have reached out to editors at the Post for a meeting to further discuss its coverage. The Meat Institute has many resources on the nutrition benefits of meat on www.meatpoultrynutrition.org and addresses many of the inaccuracies in the reporting on the environmental impact of meat production at both www.meatmythcrushers.com and here. Our hope is more groups and experts will speak up and highlight the science on the role of meat in our diets and its environmental impact. It is time to make sure both issues are reported accurately.
NAMI Letter to the Editor:
This week’s In Theory discussion of meat consumption is yet another example in the Post’s unwarranted war on meat. With two writers agreeing that reduction is necessary, it didn’t exactly fulfill its mission to explore topics from different perspectives. The series is built on a false premise from the start: that there is consensus we eat too much meat. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends meat and poultry as part of a healthy eating pattern. It noted that there are certain age groups of men in the U.S. that consume more protein than USDA recommends. There are other groups that consume less than recommended, but as a whole, federal data show that protein — including meat — is consumed at recommended levels.
Similarly, the series falsely suggests that scientists somehow agree that meat is a major contributor to climate change. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data says otherwise. It shows that U.S. agriculture in total contributes approximately 10% of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Livestock production accounts for 4.2% of the total U.S. GHG emissions. By contrast, transportation accounts for 27 percent and energy production accounts for 31 percent. The U.S.’s efficient meat production system allows us to produce more meat with a lower percentage of GHG emissions than any other country in the world. When you examine carbon emissions according to the nutrients provided by the food, meat is a valuable part of the diet.
As an industry we can always improve and we are constantly evaluating ways to reduce the environmental impact while also providing nutrient dense food that 95 percent of Americans love. The research on meat’s nutrition benefits is expansive and there are many experts available to detail it. It is disappointing the Post chose not to include that perspective.