Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cattle Farming and Climate Change

Beef - It’s What’s For Dinner.” Most of us have been introduced to this famous slogan popularized in media by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association—an organization aimed at increasing the domestic and international demand for beef. Americans have been hearing this message for over 20 years and, it sunk in. Americans consume 85.5 pounds of beef per person each yearthird in the world only behind Uruguay and Argentina. 

But, what does beef consumption have to do with climate change? According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “with emissions estimated at 7.1 gigatonnes CO2-eq per annum, representing 14.5 percent of human-induced GHG emissions, the livestock sector plays an important role in climate change.”

One obvious thing we could all do is to eat less meat. We could all go for the veggie burger instead of the quarter pounder or choose sustainably caught seafood instead of the ribeye steak. This altruistic switch seems great in theory but in reality, it is unrealistic for many carnivores to give up many of the foods they love. Heck, I’m one of them!

Don’t worry; you can still do your part without giving up amazing meals like carne asada or spaghetti and meatballs. We don’t all have to go vegetarian to decrease the contribution to global climate change from livestock. According to a recent report, Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock, there are some key changes that could be made right now to mitigate damage as much as 30%. These changes include improving overall animal health for better heard size (more healthy animals means the less animals you need total to meet quota), choose better feed for better digestion and less methane released into the atmosphere from manure, and manure management practices that do a better job at recycling nutrients and saving energy.

At this point, you may be asking yourself: If I don’t need to give up meat and I’m not a cattle farmer, what can I do? The answer is simple. Instead of choosing any old cattle product off the shelf, do a little research first.  Make a conscious effort to buy your beef or eat out at restaurants that buy their beef from sustainable farms and tell your friends to do so too. If we all chose this route, the demand for sustainably produced beef would increase and so would supply. And, the more farms that adopt these practices the more likely we are to decrease the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.

So, maybe it’s time for a new slogan: Sustainably Farmed Beef – It’s What’s For Dinner.

If you would like to find out more about sustainable farms in your area, check out Farmer’s Pal, a resource for finding and selecting, organic, sustainable farms in every state.

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