The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) has dismissed reports connecting meat consumption with global warming as ‘misinformation’.
The debate over meat production’s role in climate change was stirred up by a United Nations report entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow in 2006, which claimed that the livestock sector was responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – even more than transport. Last week, this figure was cited in an editorial published in the Archives of Internal Medicine by Dr Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, who wrote: “Overall, scholars first question the sustainability of modern agriculture in general, and second, they question the much higher energy use of producing animal foods.”
Now the CCF has accused Dr Popkin of ignoring Environmental Protection Agency data that pegged emissions from the entire US agricultural sector – which includes meat as well as grains, fruits and vegetables – at 6.4 percent of US greenhouse gases. It said that livestock accounted for just 2.58 percent.
CCF director of research David Martosko said: “U.S. meat production contributes a laughably tiny amount of carbon emissions to the climate change picture.”
He said that the 2006 report had obtained its figures by including the United States together with developing countries like China and Brazil, and claimed that US domestic livestock production is “far more efficient and environmentally friendly.”
He added: “It’s time for everyone, from the PETAs to the Popkins, to stop spreading environmental misinformation about meat.”
Popkin was unavailable to comment prior to the publication of this article. [His later comment appears at the end of this article.]
Livestock’s pollution levels
Citing further figures from the same UN report, Popkin’s editorial said: “In the United States, livestock production accounts for 55 percent of the erosion process, 37 percent of pesticides applied, 50 percent of antibiotics consumed, and a third of total discharge of nitrogen and phosphorus to surface water.”
A Reuters report quoted Popkin as saying: “I was pretty surprised when I checked back and went through the data on emissions from animal food and livestock. I didn't expect it to be more than cars.”
While the latest FAO statistics show that China produces the largest volume of meat, at 28.5 percent of global production, annual US per capita meat consumption is far higher, at 270lb (123kg) per capita, as opposed to Chinese average consumption of 119lb (54kg).
Adding to a swathe of bad press for red meat, Popkin’s editorial accompanied a study carried out by researchers at the National Cancer Institute which claimed that rates of lung and colorectal cancer could be increased by as much as 20 percent for those who consumer high levels of red or processed meat.
Following publication of this article, Dr Popkin responded to FoodNavigator-USA.com with the following statement:
"The FAOUN report was prepared by an eminent international team of scholars. The EPA report did not have such eminent scholars and and really is suspect. There is little more I can say."
Source: Archives of Internal Medicine (Vol. 169, No. 6, pp. 543-545)
“Reducing Meat Consumption Has Multiple Benefits for the World’s Health”
Author: B. Popkin