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Author Asks, “Should Meat Be On The Menu?”

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A provocative book examines the role of livestock farming and meat consumption in climate change.

Should meat be on the menu?

That’s the question posed in a provocative new book written by David Mason-Jones. And, for just $4.99, those of you with e-readers can purchase the book and find his answers to that question.

According to the book description on Amazon.com, “This book explores the widely held misconception that sheep, cattle and other grazing animals are responsible for an enormous net production of new global warming gases. The reality is that livestock are part of a closed atmospheric carbon cycle where the carbon they emit is equal to the carbon they take in. With the information in this book, food lovers who enjoy eating meat, chefs, restaurant owners, catering managers, cooks at home in their own kitchens and the general public, can feel confident that they can put meat on the menu without fear of warming the earth. Not only are sheep and cattle neutral with respect to the carbon cycle, they can be the positive agents by which carbon dioxide can be drawn down from the atmosphere and sequestered in farmland soils. Read how farmers and graziers, together with their plants and animals, can be the heroes of the environmental movement.”

A contradiction to highly-acclaimed books like Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, that criticize animal agriculture and blame meat-eating on everything from obesity, to heart disease, to global warming, Mason-Jones takes a less popular, more accurate angle -- promoting beef production as a healthy addition to the planet’s carbon cycle and touting ranchers as outstanding stewards of the land. His stance is polar opposite of many books in this genre, and it’s because of this, that his work is considered sensational and provocative; however, he is simply reiterating to his readers what producers already know -- farmers and ranchers are the original environmentalists.

Fact: Agriculture was green before green was cool!

Without a doubt, this book will spark a discussion on beef production and the environment. The Meatless Monday trend continues to grow, as consumers attempt to lower their global footprint by foregoing meat at least once a week. Many might be surprised to learn that this sacrifice isn’t necessary. Perhaps riding a bike to run errands instead of taking a vehicle, recycling and reusing old goods are better options for doing your part in caring for the planet.

Here are a few facts from Explorebeef.org that are relevant to this discussion:

“Today’s cattlemen are significantly more environmentally sustainable than they were 30 years ago. A study by Washington State University in 2007 found that today’s farmers and ranchers raise 13% more beef from 30% fewer cattle. When compared with beef production in 1977, each pound of beef produced today:

  • Produces 16% less carbon emissions,
  • Takes 33% less land, and
  • Requires 12% less water.

“The U.S. cattle industry continues to be a model for the rest of the world in terms of greenhouse gas mitigation. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, beef production accounts for only 2.8% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 26% for transportation.”

Have you checked out BEEF magazine’s Earth Day page? If you’re interested in beef production and the environment, this resource is a compilation of articles related to this subject.

From the Earth Day page: “As ranchers, we labor to grow a healthy and nutritious product while efficiently and sustainably caring for the environment and animals under our stewardship. Our romantic history with the land dates back longer than any anti-agriculture trend or activist group, but while our role in this world is just as important as in the past, our numbers have dramatically shrunk.”

Check out the Earth Day page here.

Will you be reading the book, “Should Meat Be On The Menu?” How do you care for the environment as a rancher? What makes you a good steward of the land?

Discuss this Blog Entry 8

Anonymous (not verified)
on Aug 19, 2012

Read before you write. No one claims the climate change risk posed by cattle is CO2. Liz Jones (2008) notes that “nitrous oxide and methane, of which billions of tons are produced by farmed animals, are, respectively, 300 times and 20 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere” (para. 13).

anonymous (not verified)
on Aug 21, 2012

Hey troll,
How about a complete reference to your citation?
I have read all of Amanda's quotes on the Explore Beef website and followed the references to the EPA.
So are the NO and CH4 numbers due to chemical composition or amount in the atmosphere or a combination? And ot those percentages, how much is trash production from combustion (N2+ O2) =2NO and how much simply lost from the ground as Nh3 is injected or applied and how was that estimate derived?
Have just strayed beyond the talking point for your activist group?

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Aug 20, 2012

The argument posed by AGW proponents is carbon forcing, whether CO2 or CH4. Even the cherry-picked data doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Much more precautionary principle than science in this argument. My take:

http://prairieadventure.blogspot.com/2012/05/trouble-with-carbon.html

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Aug 20, 2012

Yes, I'll read it. If it turns out as advertised, it might be a useful tool for ag producers as we continue to communicate our story to the rest of our fellows. Our family ranch has been conserving our land for more than a century. In the last generation we've reintroduced grass to formerly marginal farm ground, planted windbreaks and shelter belts, and closely managed grazing rotations. A good steward of the land must combine a basic understanding of the interface between the human footprint (ranching, in this case) and the ecosystem. This comes through study, observation, and experience.

Wile E. Coyote Super Genius (not verified)
on Aug 20, 2012

Can anyone explain how when the buffalo roamed and the deer and the antelope played, there were many more of them than all beef cows, dairy cows, feedlots, etc. combined. This also goes against the grazing management of the BLM, which prevents "overgrazing" of lands in the west. When a herd of bison came through that stopped a train for hours and hours, who told them leave when the grass was down to six inches.

Austin Black (not verified)
on Aug 20, 2012

I will definitely pursue acquiring this book and hope it does provide an honest and accurate perspective of the beef industry and production agriculture. It's refreshing to know someone is taking the initiative to publish the truth that consumers need to know!! Cattle producers are some of the most environmentally conscious people on the planet and their number one priority is the health of their land and cattle!

yehadut (not verified)
on Aug 21, 2012

The global warming emissions for livestock are greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide, especially methane. On top of that, the UN suggests 9% of the world's CO2 emissions are from livestock farming -- but this is mainly deforestation, not directly the animals themselves. The claims here are highly misleading.

D. A. (not verified)
on Oct 6, 2012

The closed cycle is true for grazing ruminants, yes, but "sheep and cattle [are] neutral with respect to the carbon cycle," only if allowed to graze. Furthermore, "they can be the positive agents by which carbon dioxide can be drawn down from the atmosphere and sequestered in farmland soils" only if allowed to graze. That statement is not true for cattle confined to feedlots that import grain from other farms. It is only true for cattle raised in their natural environment, on the forages that grow from the ground where they walk.

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A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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