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Mar 14, 2019 / Richard Hall

Competing views on livestock emissions

The EAT-Lancet Commission report on Food, Planet and Health, published on 16 January, looks set to become a major reference document for future policy on food and diet.

Its central recommendation is that healthier diets need to be more plant-based and this will help the planet environmentally.

The research is emphatically endorsed by a recent analysis from Barclays, which rather dramatically states that “Burping cows are more damaging to the climate than all the cars on this planet” and warns of “Government action … in the form of interventions such as a methane tax.”

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, agriculture and food account for a quarter of all emissions worldwide.

And yet, the US National Dairy Council also uses FAO research to point out that “From an environmental perspective, dairy is not a major contributor to GHGe. Globally, the dairy sector contributes just 2.7% of total global anthropogenic GHG emissions.” The US figure is an even lower 2%.

Moreover, the US dairy sector has made some huge reductions in its carbon footprint, with substantially more to come:

• “In 2007 compared to 1944, the US dairy community was able to produce a gallon of milk using 65% less water, 90% less land and with 76% less manure – resulting in a 63% smaller carbon footprint.”

• “US dairy farmers have committed to further reduce GHGe by 25% by 2020.”

It’s so important to base policy on the full facts.

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