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Beef Magazine Oct 22, 2020

Cars can’t compare with cows when it comes to air quality

Here’s some sound science to clear the air on cattle’s contribution to air quality.

Many first heard of Frank Mitloehner when he exposed and invalidated the UN’s “Livestock Long Shadow” report and forced its withdrawal of wildly exaggerated cattle greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Mitloehner is in the animal science department and is an air quality specialist at UC-Davis. He is not only eminently qualified to examine the nitty-gritty of livestock and their environmental impact, his classes in California give him constant exposure to the thinking of younger generations regarding climate change and cattle.

Mitloehner has been chair of the UN-Food & Agriculture Organization panel to benchmark the environmental impact of livestock production and a similar National Academy of Science, Engineering & Medicine panel.

The science and commentary he shared with the Texas Cattle Feeders Association convention via the internet was astonishing, thorough and mostly all great news for cattlemen. And it is his fervent wish that we learn it and spread the news far and wide.

The Livestock’s Long Shadow report erroneously reported that livestock production on the planet had a bigger environmental footprint (18%) than transportation. That one erroneous claim spawned increased interest in attacking cattle production and has been quoted by most of the fake meat companies to raise interest and investment capital.

The interest is so high, Mitloehner said, that his social media accounts draw three million hits per month, especially from young people wanting to save the planet.

Changing the narrative

Now he believes it is time to change the common but false narrative about beef production and climate change. The critics point to cattle’s production of methane as the problem.

Mitloehner says the new narrative is “The Path to Climate Neutrality.”

He set the stage, listing all the global GHG emissions: 11% comes from U.S. fossil fuel combustion emissions; 0.6% from U.S. agricultural plants; 0.5% from U.S. animal ag; and 88% from all other U.S. and global GHG emissions. Total U.S. emissions: 12% of global emissions.

So American livestock production is not a major contributor to GHG emissions.

The only reason it is important is because our customers make it important

“The only reason it is important is because our customers make it important,” Mitloehner said. Whether we believe it is important in one thing. But when McDonald’s or Burger King or Sam’s Club make it important, we need to discuss it. When they say they want beef delivered with a lower carbon footprint, that’s important, he said.

Of that 12% of global emissions by the U.S., three sources account for nearly 80%: transportation, 28%; electricity generation, 28%; and industry, 22 %. Only 9% comes from agriculture, of which 4% is livestock.

Of the GHG produced, 82% is carbon dioxide (CO2) and 10% is methane (CH4), according to EPA data. But importantly, agriculture and forestry are actually sinks, meaning...


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