How can food producers become more sustainable? Use less meat in their products.
Rita Jane Gabbett writes today on Meatingplace.com, a meat industry site, about a talk given by Cheryl Baldwin of Green Seal at a recent meeting of the Institute for Food Technologists.
She told Meatingplace that meat producers should better understand “the production methods used to feed and raise animals, making sure they are treated humanely and looking for ways to reduce the carbon footprint of processing methods.” She also said that “grass-fed animals created a lower carbon footprint than those that were grain fed.”
One can only imagine the reaction of meat producers to her comments.
Earlier this year, however, a study by the University of New South Wales published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology indicated beef produced in feedlots had a slightly smaller carbon footprint than meat raised exclusively on pastures. (See Feedlot beef could be “greener” than grass-fed: study on Meatingplace, Feb. 8, 2010.)
More recently, Washington State University scientists concluded that improvements in U.S. beef industry productivity have reduced the environmental impact of beef production over the past decade. (See Better beef industry practices have reduced carbon footprint on Meatingplace July 15, 2010.
This follows soon after the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report’s advice to:
Shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. In addition, increase the intake of seafood and fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products and consume only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs.
To the meat industry, advice about health and sustainability must come as a serious challenge. Keep an eye on the “eat less meat” theme. My guess is that we will be hearing a lot more about it.