Let’s Talk Livestock & Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Recently, someone mentioned that in my hometown elementary school, a lesson went home discussing a New York school adopting Meatless Monday and the negative impact on the environment livestock cause due to greenhouse gas emissions.

My hometown is in the heart of cattle country. In a county where cattle outnumber people 4 to 1. We have a proud ranching heritage. one my own family has been involved in for generations.

Now hear me when I say this, I think everyone should have the right to eat what he or she wants. You want to spend extra at Whole Foods for organic? Go for it. You don’t want to eat meat or gluten or GMO, that’s up to you. (I do think it is important to keep in mind that many people do not have the financial ability to make these kind of choices so we need to be careful here, but that’s a different rant for a different day.)

However, we need to all be aware of the actual information and ensure we educate ourselves and our children accordingly so that we can make educated decisions based on the facts.

The EPA data indicates that the agriculture industry as a whole is responsible for only 9% of US greenhouse gas emissions. With regard to livestock specifically, they make up only 1/3 of those agricultural emissions, or 3% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Also, keep in mind that production agriculture and forestry are two industries that actually help sequestration carbon in the soil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Obviously, I am not at all against reducing carbon footprints and caring for the environment. We should all be taking steps to do these things. But I didn’t hear about the lesson for the students encouraging transportation free Monday (which makes up 29% of emissions) or electricity free Mondays (28%). In fact, research at UC Davis found that going vegan for a year would result in half the impact of one trans-Atlantic flight.

All that to say, take the time to understand the facts to make your food and lifestyle choices accordingly. Wondering how to help reduce your carbon footprint while still enjoying beef as part of a healthy diet? Here is a great article from a Kansas rancher offering some practical tips (and some shocking stats on food waste!) that I’m incorporating into my own life.


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