Overstating the Meat Industry's Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ezra Klein's commentary "The Meat of the Problem" [Food, July 29] was inaccurate and not scientifically based. The U.N. report "Livestock's Long Shadow," the foundation for Mr. Klein's commentary, asserted that the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

The Environmental Protection Agency concluded that in 2007, only 2.8 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions came from animal agriculture.

Livestock production systems in the United States differ notably from livestock practices worldwide in genetic selection, feeding practices and other technologies. Assigning a percentage of global emissions to the U.S. system is misleading because the vast majority of global greenhouse gas emissions attributed to livestock production result from deforestation and the conversion of rain forests and other lands to crop or pasture land, which does not occur in the United States.

Since 1990, greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. animal agriculture industry have remained nearly constant while meat production increased by almost 50 percent, milk production by 16 percent and egg production by almost 33 percent. Today's American farmer feeds about 144 people worldwide and often does so by using land that is not tillable or that cannot be used for other non-agrarian practices.

The animal protein sector in the United States is environmentally and socially responsible, and we strive to provide the safest, most abundant and most wholesome product to consumers domestically and worldwide.


President and Chief Executive

American Meat Institute


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