Research and facts needed – June 2021
I doubt that Bill Gates or Colorado Governor Jared Polis reads this column but if they did I would like to provide a few facts that might help them understand why their anti-meat campaign will do little to solve the problem they are accusing meat of causing. The reason is simple. They are blaming meat for a problem (greenhouse gas) it does not cause. They have bought the rhetoric from their environmental friends which is wrong. If they have not heard of Dr. Frank Mitleohner from UC-Davis, they should probably look him up before they launch their next anti-meat campaign.
Bill and Jared, in case you don’t know who Dr. Mitleohner is let me help you out. In 2006 a publication from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow” made the claim that livestock, worldwide, contributed 18 percent of the greenhouse gases. Dr. Mitleohner did not think that number sounded correct, so he set about to see what was behind that number. What he found was the FAO authors utilized a different measure for livestock than they did for other greenhouse gas emitters. When he challenged the authors on this, they agreed and issued a correction of the report. However, even though the number was shown to be inaccurate we still see people using the incorrect number today.
And like every good fictional story, the documentary “Cowspiracy” went one better and said that livestock contributed 51 percent to all greenhouse gases in the world. Dr. Mitleohner challenged their information as well and then the documentary producers changed from 51 to 18 percent, which was the inaccurate FAO number.
Here is where I would like Bill and Jared to really pay attention. Out of all the arable land available for food production in the world, two-thirds of it is marginal, meaning that it is not good enough to raise crops. As Dr. Mitleohner puts it, livestock, specifically ruminants, can “up cycle” the plants on those marginal lands which can then be utilized by humans. So Bill and Jared by trying to get people off meat you are asking people to let two-thirds of our arable lands go to waste.
The story does not end there however, as many of the crops which are produced for people also produce a significant amount of product which ruminants can utilize but humans cannot. For instance, corn, which is used for human and animal consumption, also produces corn stalks. Humans, of course, cannot eat and utilize corn stalks, but cows can. I am a big almond fan, however, the husks from almonds cannot be eaten by people. Cows can eat almond husks. Dr. Mitleohner explains that 84 percent of all livestock species food worldwide is non-edible for humans. As for the remaining 16 percent of crops produced and fed to animals, Dr. Mitleohner explains that much of the food is fed to non-ruminant animals such as chickens and pigs.
But Bill and Jared want us to stop eating meat. If everyone in the US was converted to veganisim with the wave of a magic wand, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 2.6 percent.
Bill, I would hazard to say that all the computers running a program sold by your company contribute significantly more greenhouse gases than livestock.
So the next time you feel the urge to “save the planet” guys, do a little research to see if what you propose makes sense.
By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President