Beef Production and Air Quality
Debunking the Myths of Livestock and Greenhouse Gases
The beef industry has researched methane and other greenhouse gas emissions from cattle operations. As stewards of the land, water and other natural resources, we believe it is important to understand the impacts cattle raising may have on the environment.
However, in recent years, conflicting information — including a dubious report from the United Nations (UN)— has been presented on this topic, often times framing cattle ranching as more culpable in greenhouse gas emissions than bigger contributors, such as transportation.
But as a 2010 study shows, nothing could be further from the truth.
Presented in March 2010 at the American Chemistry Society’s conference, “Clearing the Air” took a fresh look at greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production. The study — which was an independent scientific assessment from the University of California at Davis — found several inconsistencies in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow.”
While the UN report has received widespread attention since its release in 2006 — and has been cited by some as a reason to not eat meat — this new research calls into question many of the myths about beef production and its role in methane and other greenhouse gas emissions. We strongly encourage consumers and members of the beef industry to read the report.
In short, “Clearing the Air” author and well-known climatologist Frank Mitloehner found:
- The “Livestock’s Long Shadow” statement that livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than the global transportation sector – is a flawed and inaccurate comparison that did not use equivalent methods of analysis. This claim, said Mitloehner, is “based on inappropriate or inaccurate scaling of predictions.”
- In the United States, 2.8 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to livestock production, compared to 26 percent from transportation, according to an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study cited by Mitloehner (“Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2007”).
“Clearing the Air” has brought about a passionate discussion on the topic of agriculture and global warming. Some additional resources you can consider include: