NCBA's Sustainability Guru Sara Place Shoots Down the Environmental Misconceptions About the US Beef IndustryFri, 23 Aug 2019 10:29:49 CDT
Dr. Sara Place, a former faculty member of Oklahoma State University, is now on staff at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association serving the beef industry as the organization’s senior director of sustainable beef production research. In a recent conversation with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays, Place described some of the misconceptions consumers have about beef production that her work is helping correct. Particularly, in regard to its overall level of sustainability as consumers have become more aware and concerned about where their food comes from and how it is produced.
“I think we see that in the mainstream press. Cattle producers are reading the same articles that any other Joe Blow consumer is and we see a lot of articles on the environmental impact of beef especially,” she said. “Just that whole word of ‘sustainability’ in food is very much a hot topic right now.”
What is unique about the challenge of addressing the issue of sustainability, is that it is not just a one-dimensional term. The concept of sustainability itself, Place says, encompasses a wide range of factors including things like environmental impact, but also things such as animal welfare and even just being a good member of your community. Not to dismiss the complexity of the issue, Place does contend that beef producers are actually well-situated for tackling it insisting that the industry as a whole has a remarkable story to tell. She believes the beef industry has always practiced environmental stewardship, cared exceptionally well for livestock and has been proactive and progressive in constantly improving industry practices. She says it is simply a matter of gathering that information and packaging it in the right way to resonate with consumers.
A prime example of this is the heat the industry has received based on misinformation regarding its environmental impact via greenhouse gas emissions. Place says the reality of the matter is that while the industry does contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, the US cattle herd only generates 2% of the national emissions total, or just over 3% if you account for beef’s entire industrial footprint. What is important to note about that though, is that the industry is not actually adding to that total. Most of what is generated is methane, which over time (roughly a decade) breaks down into carbon dioxide and is reabsorbed and recycled through the natural carbon cycle. Essentially, the beef industry is carbon-neutral or balanced. And, there is both private and government research to back that up.
“We’ve worked with USDA researchers to ask if this really has a big effect on changing the climate over time and the answer really is no,” Place said, refuting the claims that the adoption of a meatless diet would effectively slow climate change. “If everyone went vegan, we would only reduce greenhouse gases by 2.6%. That’s the max reduction from diet changes…”
Listen to Place discuss these misconceptions about the beef industry further with Hays, on today’s Beef Buzz.
The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network and is a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today's show and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.
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