Do these beef-industry myths sound familiar?

  • The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry produces one fifth of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to global climate change.
  • Eating less meat means you are using fewer resources for your personal diet and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, while making a commitment to global food security.
While those points might sound familiar, the source isn’t – the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. They’re among the admonitions used to bolster the church’s call for “A Lenten Journey of Discovery.” The campaign aimed to promote “Meatless Mondays” during Lent because “meat production comes at a cost to God’s creation.” See the call at ga6.org/elca_advocacy/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=29058890

Never mind that these claims are based on hazy or biased science, says the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF).

Regarding that 2006 UN report claiming that livestock production is responsible for 18% of GHG emissions (not 20%), University of California-Davis expert Frank Mitloehner says here in the U.S. the Environmental Protection Agency’s domestic inventory shows all agriculture contributes 5.8% of GHG. What’s more, EPA found that the livestock portion of the pie accounts for less than 3% of domestic emissions.

Mitloehner says the UN produced “a classical apples-and-oranges analogy that truly confused the issue.” While it provided a detailed farm-to-fork analysis of livestock-related emissions, the UN’s analysis of transportation sources was nowhere near as thorough. This likely led to an overstatement of ag’s impact on the climate.

“A better solution than calling for widespread tofu conversion would be to help underdeveloped countries become more energy-efficient with their livestock production,” CCF says. “This is especially important considering that global demand for meat is expected to double by 2050.”

Mitloehner says America’s beef producers in 2008 needed 37 million fewer cattle to produce the same amount of meat as in 1975. This increase in efficiency has led to less waste and required less feed. And a 2007 study published in the Journal of Animal Sciences found that modern dairy producers require significantly fewer resources than their counterparts six decades ago.

CCF offers this advice to groups who really care about global warming, “They’d do more good by policing the supermarket for “Made in the USA” labels.”