Like it or not, you need to have facts
By Trent Loos
The one event I cannot imagine missing each year is the Alltech Symposium in Lexington, Ky., each May. This year, as in years past, no one left disappointed. I believe the last count was right at 2,500 people from 80 different countries that converged on the Bluegrass State, and they all share a similar passion for feeding the people.
I think the greatest benefit of this event is that it provides an opportunity to really get a pulse on what other countries are thinking and doing. The Europeans never disappoint in having a completely different thought process on going forward than we do here in the U.S., and there is no one issue to prove that point more than the subject of “mitigating greenhouse gases.”
First, I must say that we are so fortunate that one guy from the University of California, Davis took an interest years ago in the science behind the emissions generated by agriculture. Had it not been for Frank Mitloehner, Ph.D., we would all be in a heap of trouble with the misguided notions being fueled about reducing meat consumption in order to improve the planet.
I may be a vocal minority in telling the world that if you produce something—anything of value—you will emit greenhouse gases. But as Mitloehner stated during his presentation at the symposium, the world is going to set standards for what emissions should be and if we are not at the table for the discussion we will not like the results.
In 2007 the United Nations released a report charging that eating meat contributes to more GHG emissions than driving an SUV. It was Mitloehner who countered them by proving that they did not compare apples to apples because they looked at the whole life cycle of carbon to evaluate meat production and did not do the same when considering carbon emissions for transportation.
So after being confronted with the facts, the United Nations admitted they had made a mistake, but the horse was already out of the barn.
Today, Mitloehner not only is working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, he is actually chairing the committee to look for the real solutions.
In addition I believe this whole concept of meat consumption destroying the planet is a more grave threat to our future than any animal rights initiatives. Here at home we have seen several major announcements including a New York school system that is only going to offer vegetarian meals options in order to help the planet. What most don’t seem to understand is that animals are here to improve the planet and improve human health. However, without the real science that people like Miltloehner are putting together, the world is going to make terrible decisions for us based on nothing but emotion and personal agendas.
Mitloehner is also in an advisory role with the National Academy of Science and the Institutes of Health. He tells me that other members of this committee are all of the frame of mind that climate change is caused by meat consumption, so clearly there is work to be done.
Here are the most recent numbers that need to be shouted from every mountain top I support of animal agriculture:
In the United States, 6 percent of all GHGs are emitted from agriculture. Of that, 3.4 percent of the total are from livestock agriculture while it is believed that roughly 1.4 percent come from beef production. Mitloehner has made the case that if Meatless Monday were to be mandated with all 314 million Americans, the reduction of GHGs would be only 0.2 percent. This is so insignificant in the big picture, and we all need to be armed with facts like this that we can repeat as often as necessary to set the record straight.
In closing, a big part of me wants to say that we will continue to make improvements in GHG emissions as we improve the overall efficiency of our operations and produce more with less, so all this chatter about emissions and mitigation is just a waste of time. I also realize that if we can’t document through scientific discovery where we are now and how much improvement has been made, we are not going to like the path that we are going to be taken down.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.