The Environmental Working Group (EWG), the Washington special interest outfit that pioneered such advancements as the “cell phones cause cancer” hysteria, is back and now they’re going after beef. The EWG has released a report calculating the carbon footprint of beef products and their findings are very sobering. Er, maybe not:
Beef generates more than twice the emissions of pork, nearly four times that of chicken, and more than 13 times that of vegetable proteins such as beans, lentils, and tofu.
The EWG goes on to further admonish all you meat-eaters out there and politely ask that you refrain from indulging in your deadly McDouble at least once a week, in order to cut down on the carbon emissions begotten by “every step of the food cycle, from the pesticides and fertilizers to the grazing, processing, transportation, and disposal of unused [beef].”
Others have already debunked the notion that eating beef is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, Time noted that similar claims being made by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization were “based on a faulty comparison because they relied on a method called life cycle assessment, which charts the emissions of every aspect of raising meat [while] the figure for transportation-related emissions they used only counted those produced when vehicles burn fossil fuels, not the full production cycle of petroleum.”
The most egregious aspect of this new EWG claim is that in their zeal to discourage meat consumption, they ignore both the science and the economic realities of supply and demand. In his aptly-named Meatblogger blog, Penn State professor of meat science Dr. Chris Raines points out that what we don t consume here will simply be exported elsewhere and that the beef production cycle wouldn t be impacted by the EWG’s suggested hamburger furlough:
Even if [Americans] all go meatless for a day one day per week that means 14.3% (1/7) more meat would be available for export.
Be they independent farmers or agribusinesses, small butcher shops or packing industry giants, I bet that they would figure out a way to export meat to new or larger markets rather than reducing the size of their herds, flocks, and businesses.
Your hamburger won’t make the oceans rise, but considering our massive trade deficit, exporting a little more beef instead of eating it isn’t going to hurt anybody.