In 2006, the United Nations (UN) released a report declaring that 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions were the result of livestock. Although the report was challenged and one of the report’s authors acknowledged that the information was a misrepresentation, the damage had already been done.
Fortunately, this week, new research by Jude Capper, Ph.D., from Washington State University shed some light on the previous study and released new numbers that will hopefully debunk the UN myth. Research published in the December version of the Journal of Animal Science shows that raising a pound of beef in the United States today uses significantly fewer natural resources than it did 30 years ago; a fact that will surprise few in the cattle business. What may be a point of interest is that each pound of beef raised in 2007 used 33 percent less land, 12 percent less water, 19 percent less feed and 9 percent less fossil fuel energy than equivalent beef production in 1977. Waste outputs were similarly reduced, shrinking the carbon footprint of beef by 16.3 percent in 30 years.
Should population growth continue as projected, and numbers climb to 10 billion people by the year 2050, the world will be more dependent than ever on the ability for the United States, and specifically California, to be able to produce more food with fewer resources. As technologies improve and ranchers continue to do more with less, California beef producers will continue to play an important role in the feeding of the world.
I've interviewed Judith Capper and she's a fascinating person. She's good at debunking myths, too, including one that says large-scale livestock production is bad for the environment.