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Time to share the facts about climate and food

By Hannah Thompson-Weeman, vice president of communications at the Animal Agriculture Alliance

A recent report published in the Lancet medical journal claims that people must drastically reduce their meat and dairy consumption to be healthy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While the report may make for sensational headlines, it ignores evidence about meat and dairy foods’ positive role in healthy diets and environmental sustainability.

The EAT Forum, the organization behind the report, is a privately funded think tank based in Oslo, Norway, and the Lancet is a UK-based medical journal. Their prescriptive global diet severely limits meat and dairy consumption, drastically departing from U.S. dietary guidance. Quantity and calorie caps apply to staple foods, including:

  • Beef (or lamb): one-quarter ounce per day (7g)
  • Pork: one-quarter ounce per day (7g)
  • Dairy: 250 grams per day — about one glass of milk
  • Chicken: one ounce per day (29g)
  • Eggs: less than half an ounce per day — about 1/5 of an egg
  • Fish: about one ounce per day – limited to 40 calories

The EAT-Lancet Commission comprises a small group of researchers and does not represent a global consensus of scientific experts in animal agriculture, nutrition or sustainability. U.S.-based experts have weighed in and expressed concerns about the report.

“It’s shocking that after years of promoting a groundbreaking report, EAT-Lancet’s own analysis shows the commission’s recommended diet has almost no environmental benefit over business-as-usual scenarios,” said Frank Mitloehner, Ph.D., professor and air quality extension specialist at the University of California-Davis. “While EAT-Lancet claims its reference diet would decrease greenhouse gas emissions, the commission’s fundamentally flawed data fail to account for methane reduction that occurs naturally, as methane remains in the atmosphere for only 10 years. The carbon emissions from all the flights required for the commission’s global launch tour will have a much longer impact than that of methane from livestock animals.”

At the Animal Agriculture Alliance, we believe that caring for our families, our health and our homes unites people around the world. U.S. farmers and ranchers understand this and are producing more nutrient-dense meat and dairy more efficiently than ever before. As we all look to choose food that is good for us and good for the planet, the alliance believes everyone should have the facts. It’s up to all of us in agriculture to help combat misinformation and highlight the role of meat, poultry, dairy and eggs in a healthy, sustainable diet.

Farmers and ranchers can help mitigate the influence of this report by sharing positive and factual information about animal agriculture’s sustainability story. The alliance has many resources to help you do just that. A few tidbits:

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for just 4 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and less than half of total agriculture emissions.
  • S. dairy farming has reduced the carbon footprint of every gallon of milk produced by two-thirds since 1944, making 60% more milk with 60% fewer cows.
  • Vitamin B12 is essential to brain health and is only found naturally in animal-based foods.

You can find more information about the report and resources for discussing it by visiting http://resources.animalagalliance.org/climatefoodfacts. We also invite you to join the conversation online using #ClimateFoodFacts. Let’s all come together to make sure our consumers and customers have the facts about animal agriculture’s commitment to continuous improvement and providing a sustainable and healthy food supply.

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One comment

  1. Note that Frank Mitloehner, PhD, is funded by the Checkoff program to support our agricultural and livestock legacy, as well as $5 million in research funding, with 5 percent of the total from agricultural commodities groups, such as beef producers.

    We need to support farmers to be sustainable, and encourage their transition to growing clean food for human consumption that supports the health of people and the planet. They must be part of our future success. That means limiting animal food production, and increasing profits by growing clean food. We need to subsidize crops that support human health, not those associated with disease (milk, meat).

    GO FARMERS! – You preserve the land; you feed the world!

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