Thursday, March 23, 2017

Study says eating less beef lowers emissions; critics say study confuses consumption with production

A decline in beef consumption has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The study found that from 2005-2014, "Americans cut their per-capita diet-related climate-warming pollution by approximately 10 percent." During that same period, "Americans consumed 19 percent less beef, avoiding an estimated 185 million metric tons of climate-warming pollution or roughly the equivalent of the annual tailpipe pollution of 39 million cars." NRDC says "these changes cumulatively avoided approximately 271 million metric tons of climate-warming pollution."

The study said: "Despite a drop in consumption, beef still contributes more climate-warming pollution than any other food in the American diet. In fact, it comprised approximately 34 percent of total dietrelated per capita climate-warming pollution in 2014, the last year for which data is available." (NRDC graphic: Beef consumption and greenhouse gas emissions)
Researchers said "overall diet changes—especially reductions in meat and dairy consumption—cut climate pollution by the equivalent of 57 million cars' annual emissions," Marc Heller reports for Greenwire. "The reason for the effect: Animal agriculture requires large amounts of feed, which takes land and fertilizer to produce. And animals produce methane, which is a greenhouse gas."

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association found fault in the study, saying it "mistakenly seems to equate consumption with beef production," Heller writes. Sara Place, NCBA's senior director of sustainable beef production research, said "the report 'tremendously overstated' the reduction in greenhouse gases, which the association said was closer to 6 percent."

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