0.44%, and that includes horses

“Meat Eater’s Guide”

On Monday the Environmental Working Group released their version of a life cycle assessment for meat production and consumption.  From what I know, this is the first attempt to to model the entire meat system instead of only modeling livestock production.  That effort deserves some applause.  But hold on … you really need to read the document.There are multiple shortcomings and assumptions that do not seem reasonable in the report — certain items were deemed “typical” when they simply are not.  The “Meat Eater’s Guide” is somewhat loosely collected and is, at best, representative of where meat production and consumption is today.  It does not recommend what cannot be improved upon, how the system can be changed / improved / altered to enhance its “sustainability.”  Instead, the recommendation surfing across the interwebs is essentially a repackaging “Meatless Monday” to include cheese.

Confounding messages

I will be writing about the report over the course of the next week or two.  For now, I encourage you to read the document and do so carefully.  The messages are mixed, you will constantly encounter the word “confined.”  The most egregious head-scratcher is the the technology aversion that permeates the document.  Grass-fed only, no rbST, other “good” things are recommended although the actual adoption of such technologies usually results in reduced GHG emissions per unit of meat or milk than if the technology is avoided.

A whopping 0.44%

In regard to avoiding meat and cheese for a day, that’s somehow close to removing 7.6 million cars from the road over the course of a year according to EWG.  We could, however, back-calculate some numbers from the EPA.  This point was made by Dr. Judith Capper (Washington State University) recently at the annual meetings of the American Society of Animal Science and the American Dairy Science Association.  In the United States, animal agriculture is reportedly responsible for 3.12% of GHG emissions. Cutting out products of animal agriculture one day a week would equate to:  3.12% GHG / 7 days = 0.44%.  This is simple math applied to existent EPA data.

That number includes horses that we do not (and unfortunately cannot) consume (but that’s an entirely different can of worms to sift through).  According to Dr. Capper, the portion of animal agriculture that we should consider is <3.1% since the original call for Meatless Mondays cited red meat and cheese as the villain and thus, poultry and horses should be removed from the do-not-eat list of GHG emitters.


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