To help improve the accuracy of reporting on the sustainability and environmental impact of meat production, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), Washington, D.C., released a new Media MythCrusher document, reviewed by environmental experts, outlining 10 common myths and the data correcting them.
“With so many different definitions and numbers shared around the world, it is hard for reporters to navigate what the research shows on the environmental impact of meat production,” says Eric Mittenthal, NAMI vice president of public affairs. “The new Media MythCrusher is an easy-to-use resource with links to key research and data that shows the positive trends of greenhouse gas reductions in the industry over many years.”
The most common myth seen throughout the media dates back to the 2006 United Nations (UN) report, "Livestock's Long Shadow,” which said that livestock contribute 18% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide, a greater percentage than transportation. This number has been widely challenged by scientists who point out that the UN produced its numbers for the livestock sector by adding up emissions from farm to table, but its transportation analysis did not similarly add up emissions from well to wheel.
Regional environmental impacts also vary significantly from worldwide data. According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, all of agriculture contributes 9% of America’s GHGs while livestock production accounts for 4.2% of GHGs. By contrast, transportation accounts for 27% and energy production is 31%. The differences between United States and worldwide numbers are due to technologies and production efficiencies.
“A close look at the data shows that the environmental impact of the meat industry has declined considerably over the last 40 years,” adds Mittenthal. “Specific to beef, the industry has produced 13% more total beef from 30% fewer animals, using 19% less feed, 33% less land, 12% less water and 9% less fossil fuel energy with an overall carbon footprint reduction of 16%.”