Experts agree factory farms are putting climate at risk

Texas Longhorn grazing.Creative Commons: John and Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS, 2013.

According to a letter signed by 200 experts addressed to the World Health Organization (WHO), factory farms and industrial livestock operations are putting Earth’s climate at risk.

The letter, urging the WHO to reduce the size and number of factory farms, warned that without a reduction in meat consumption and production, livestock operations will use up 50% of the world’s carbon budget.

“As the global health community acknowledges the intertwined nature of planetary and human health, it must also confront the role that factory farming plays in climate change,” the letter said.

Livestock production is notorious for emitting dangerous levels of methane gas, as well as contributing to deforestation when growing feed for cattle. The U.S. Environmental Protection attributes 9% of greenhouse gases from methane emitted by livestock, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization attributes 14.5% of greenhouse gases to livestock, land clearing, feed production and energy used in the production of meat.

“The bottom line is that factory farm production isn’t great for the climate, especially the disproportionate impact of red meat,” Food and Livestock Specialist Sunjatha Bergen from the Natural Resources Defense Council said in Inside Climate News. “If we reduce demand, that will have a big impact on global warming.”

Grass-fed beef, versus factory-farmed beef, still has a large climate impact, but recent research has found that if managed properly “free range” cattle can help build soil integrity, leading to healthy prairie grasses that absorb significant amounts of carbon, through the verdict is out on exactly how much.

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Last updated June 29, 2017

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