The environmental lobby hasn’t given up on dairy cows but it has a new bovine target – beef cattle:
A new study into the environmental impact of meat production has singled out beef as the worst offender.
The study says beef requires far more resources than other meats to produce, but industry representatives here say they are working on making the red meat greener.
New Zealand red meat exports total almost $8 billion annually.
The new study, based on meat production in the United States, which did not include lamb, is pointing the finger at the environmental impact of beef production.
It wouldn’t include lamb because its production is relatively insignificant in the USA.
It found beef needs 28 times more land than that required for the production of poultry and pork, and it requires 11 times more water.
What’s more, the study says beef production leads to five times more greenhouse gas emissions when compared to the other meats. . .
What’s more, the bulk of USA beef cattle are finished in feed lots rather than grazing free range as they do here.
The cut and carry feed method of production requires a lot more fuel and therefore produces more emissions than free range grazing.
Snap Fresh Food vegetable grower Ashley Berrysmith says greens are the cleanest food choice for people concerned about their carbon footprint. . .
But man, and woman, can’t live on greens alone.
A healthy diet includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables but it also includes a variety of nutrients, protein and some fat all of which are easier to get in the required quantity from red meat than greens.
Agriculture accounts for almost half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, but Beef and Lamb New Zealand says the industry is getting more efficient.
“We’ve reduced our impact on the environment considerably, producing more meat on less land with less environmental impact,” says Ben O’Brien from Beef and Lamb.
But those behind the study say the science is clear – if you want to pollute less, eat more greens and less red meat.
But that study is from the USA not New Zealand where beef production is a lot less energy intense.
Red meat production might still cause more greenhouse gas than growing vegetables, but that’s not the only consideration in a healthy diet.
Other considerations are nutrients and price where meat could come out better and let’s not forget that in New Zealand beef cattle graze where no crops could be grown.
Besides the study looks at only one side of the ledger.
Producers can – and do – take measures to minimise and compensate for emissions and most do their best to protect and enhance the environment in other ways too.