A Jan. 4 Community Voices commentary posed this question: “Why aren’t we all addressing climate change at each meal by skipping the meat?”
The campaign to fight climate change by avoiding eating meat is well-intentioned but not well-informed. In 2017, agriculture contributed 8.4 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and meat production was responsible for some part of that. But peer-reviewed studies show that even eliminating all of our cattle would have a relatively minor effect on climate change. In contrast, incorporating cattle into a regenerative agriculture system could sequester enough carbon to turn agriculture into a carbon sink, while also eliminating much other environmental damage caused by industrial agriculture.
About 97 percent of the beef produced in the United States comes from cattle that spend half their lives in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), also known as feedlots, each of which might hold tens of thousands of animals.