by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Climate change

Jun 3 2024

Industry-funded study of the week: Pork

A reader, Tara Kenny, sent me this one.  She wrote that she had seen a chart from this paper posted on X (Twitter) “showing  how pork, chicken, eggs, fish and turkey are almost the same as beans and nuts in terms of mean GHGs/50g of protein so I figured this paper would have likely have some conflicts of interests…It does.”

I went right to it.

  • The paper: Perspective: The Place of Pork Meat in Sustainable Healthy Diets. Advances in Nutrition.  Adam Drewnowski.  Advances in Nutrition.  Volume 15, Issue 5, May 2024, 100213.
  • Rationale. “The present analyses explore the place of pork in sustainable healthy diets worldwide, given the need for high-quality protein and the predictable patterns of global food demand.”
  • Method: “This Perspective article aims to assess the place of fresh pork in the global sustainability framework, drawing on data from United States sources and from international agencies. The present goal was to examine the sustainability of pork as a source of meat protein, considering nutrition, affordability, environmental impact, and future food demand.”
  • Conflict of interest: “AD is the original developer of the Naturally Nutrient Rich (NNR) and the Nutrient Rich Food (NRF) nutrient profiling models and a member of scientific advisory panels for The National Pork Board, Nestlé, FrieslandCampina, BEL, and Carbohydrate Quality Panel supported by Potatoes USA and has worked with Ajinomoto, FoodMinds, KraftHeinz, Nutrition Impact LLC, Nutrition Institute, PepsiCo, and Samsung on quantitative ways to assess nutrient density of foods.”
  • Funding: “Analyses of publicly available USDA, FAO, and World Bank data were supported by the National Pork Board. The funders were not involved in the development of databases, analytical models, data analysis or interpretation, manuscript preparation or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.”

Comment: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions produced by agriculture is an important goal.  Most researchers think industrialized countries should produce less meat (particularly beef) as a necessary first step.  This analysis suggests we stop worrying about the effects of pork on climate change (never mind the effects of industrial pork production on air, land, and water within smelling distance). This article, by my old friend and colleague Adam Drewnowski, is an excellent overview of pork nutrition.  But why do it?  The title alone raises the question, “Who paid for this?”

Mar 15 2024

Weekend reading: Compassionate Eating

Tracey Harris and Terry Gibbs. Food in a Just World: Compassionate Eating in a Time of Climate Change. Polity Books, 2024. 

I blurbed it:

Food in a Just World is an up-to-the-minute introduction to issues of class, race, and gender—and species—in what we eat, as well as to how larger issues of economics and capitalism affect workers in the meat industry.  Whether you eat meat or not, the book convincingly argues that these issues demand serious attention.

Here’s what the publisher says about it:

Food in a Just World examines the violence, social breakdown, and environmental consequences of our global system of food production, distribution, and consumption. From animals in industrialized farming – but also those reared in supposedly higher-welfare practices – to low-wage essential workers, and from populations being marketed unhealthy diets to the natural ecosystems suffering daily degradation, each step of the process is built on some form of exploitation. While highlighting the broken system’s continuities from European colonialism to contemporary globalization, the authors argue that the seeds of resilience, resistance, and inclusive manifestations of cultural resurgence are already being reflected in the day-to-day actions taking place in communities around the world. Emphasizing the need for urgent change, the book looks at how genuine democracy would give individuals and communities meaningful control over the decisions that impact their lives when seeking to secure this most basic human need humanely.


Mar 5 2024

How the food industry exerts influence II: climate scientists (meat industry)

In my Monday postings of industry-funded studies of the week, I mostly have stopped listing the names of authors because I view industry influence as a systemic problem, not something to be blamed on individuals.

But a recent article on meat industry influence on climate change science, sent to me by one of its authors, focuses on two individual recipients of meat industry funding.

The study: Morris, V., Jacquet, J. The animal agriculture industry, US universities, and the obstruction of climate understanding and policyClimatic Change 177, 41 (2024).

The 2006 United Nations report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” provided the first global estimate of the livestock sector’s contribution to anthropogenic climate change and warned of dire environmental consequences if business as usual continued. In the subsequent 17 years, numerous studies have attributed significant climate change impacts to livestock. In the USA, one of the largest consumers and producers of meat and dairy products, livestock greenhouse gas emissions remain effectively unregulated. What might explain this? Similar to fossil fuel companies, US animal agriculture companies responded to evidence that their products cause climate change by minimizing their role in the climate crisis and shaping policymaking in their favor. Here, we show that the industry has done so with the help of university experts….Here, we traced how these efforts have downplayed the livestock sector’s contributions to the climate crisis, minimized the need for emission regulations and other policies aimed at internalizing the costs of the industry’s emissions, and promoted industry-led climate “solutions” that maintain production.

The authors describe the ways the meat industry interacts with the work of two university researchers.  Both researchers, they report:

  • have received significant research funding from industry groups
  • lead university centers that receive funding from industry groups
  • have been employed by an industry group as consultants
  • have received awards or travel from industry groups
  • have failed to disclose industry funding in instances where it is the norm to do so
  • have presented to policymakers at an industry-sponsored event
  • have produced work referenced in public comments submitted by industry groups to regulatory agencies
  • have co-authored publications with industry employees
  • have published repeatedly in industry-funded journals
  • have been referenced by industry groups in industry advertisements
  • have published traditional and social media in support of industry interests
  • have minimized the industry’s role in climate change
  • have challenged the need for regulations or promoted policy changes in ways that are favorable to industry

And there’s more:

Nicholas Carter sent me a copy of his and the Freedom Food Alliance’s report on meat industry efforts to deflect its role in climate change: Harvesting Denial, Distractions, & Deception: Understanding Animal Agriculture’s Disinformation Strategies and Exploring Solutions.

This analysis focuses on key strategies, including tactics to deny, derail, delay, deflect and distract6 meaningful discussion of the key issues, as well as methods that generally are intended to confuse and create doubt in the minds of policymakers and the general public.  It is common for the animal agriculture industry to challenge the necessity to shift to a plant-based food system, question causation, dispute the messenger, and contest suggested proplant-based policies.

Carter also sent an article about this study from DeSmog: Meat industry using “misinformation: to block dietary change, report finds.

He notes: “Relevant to all this to is the ironic timing of $4 million more just rewarded (announced yesterday) to Mitloehner and the CLEAR center.”

His comments on this irony:

Yes, feed swaps & quicker fattening can lower some methane, albeit with tradeoffs, but this ignores the far bigger opp. for shifts in demand & supply away from the highest methane-polluting practice.

Comment: In partnerships of this type, the sponsoring industry typically wins.  Much research shows that individual recipients of industry funding do not believe it influences the design, conduct, or interpretation of their studies, despite substantial evidence that it does. The role of beef methane emissions is an existential threat to beef sales.  The industry, understandably, is doing all it can to undermine concerns about its role in climate change.

Feb 13 2024

USDA updates its plant hardiness zones

I’m on the USDA’s mailing list for press releases and learned that it had updated its map of plant hardiness zones based on the lowest minimum temperature expected over a 30-year average period.

USDA’s announcement of its new hardiness map said “When compared to the 2012 map, the 2023 version reveals that about half of the country shifted to the next warmer half zone, and the other half of the country remained in the same half zone.”

The new map is interactive.  You can click on it to see your zone.  My Manhattan zone is 7b.

It was 6b when I moved here in 1988, meaning that the lowest expected winter temperature was minus 5 to zero degrees F.  The zone is now 5 degrees higher.

My apartment has a terrace on which I grow food and other plants in pots.

I love the rosemary hedges in California and I tried growing rosemary on my terrance.  Until a few years ago, it behaved as an annual and did not survive the winter.

Now it does.

The USDA’s announcement did not mention climate change.

This induced Civil Eats to headline its excellent report on the zoning changes The USDA Updated Its Gardening Map, But Downplays Connection to Climate Change.

It’s not that the USDA doesn’t recognize the role of climate change.  It’s just that its various sub-agencies don’t talk to each other.

I did a little digging and came up with an archived site, Climate Change Pressures in the 21st Century.

This took me to a July 26, 2022 report.

This, in turn, took me to the USDA’s informative 2018 analysis, Assessing potential climate change pressures across the conterminous United States: mapping plant hardiness zones, heat zones, growing degree days, and cumulative drought severity throughout this century.  

In the era of persistent climate change, it is important that we consider how continued perturbations to our climate system may intensify through the end of the century (U.S. Global Change Research Program [USGCRP] 2017). Further, it is important to evaluate these potential changes under alternative scenarios to gauge the potential magnitude of these changes. By focusing on four key metrics related to plant growth and survival, but also of key interest to human well-being, we map and summarize projections of growing degree days, plant hardiness zones, heat zones, and cumulative drought severity across the conterminous United States throughout this century

This report lays out what’s happening now along with predictions for each of those metrics.

For plant hardiness zones, Baseline refers to mean absolute minimum temperature for the 30-year period, 1980-2009.  Early century is 2010-2039.

Here are USDA’s scientists’ low and high estimates—predictions—for mid-century (2040-2069) and late century (2070-2099).

Climate change is occurring much more rapidly than had been predicted.  Look at what’s happening in Alaska, Greenland and Antarctica, for example.

It feels as though New York’s climate is approaching that of what used to be typical for Northern California.

My parsley is already behaving as a perennial and rosemary seems to be doing just fine.

I’m expecting an early spring.

Dec 22 2023

Weekend reading: International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems

Some of the most thoughtful writing about food and climate change comes from IPES  Food–The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems.

IPES Food recently published From Plate to Planet, a report on how local governments are trying to do something about preventing further climate change by “promoting healthy and sustainable diets, reducing food waste, shortening food chains, training organic farmers, and ensuring all residents can access healthy and sustainable food.”

The report receommends that national governmebts follow their example.

To that I say good luck.

The big triumph of COP-28 was the mention of fossil fuels in its final recommendations, not that anyone intends to do anything about them.

Preventing climate change is going to have to be a local effort.  IPES Food points the way.

Dec 5 2023

The COP-28 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai—items

COP-28, the UN’s climate change conference is happening in Dubai, right now.

I’m trying to make sense of it.  For starters, the irony:

But food—the effects of agriculture on climate change (and vice versa) is on its agenda this year—a major big deal.

That’s why a coalition of farmers, communities, business, and philanthropy has issued a call to transform food systems.

Here’s my collection of food-related items.

I.  Food Tank’s Danielle Nierenberg is on the job: more than 30 Food Tank partnered events are scheduled.

Once again, four pavilions will be devoted to food systems: Food and Agriculture, led by our partners and friends at FAO, CGIAR, International Fund for Agricultural Development, and The Rockefeller Foundation; Food Systems, spearheaded by the European Union-backed program EIT Food and a variety of other groups including the Food and Land Use Coalition; Food4Climate, organized by a variety of partners—including youth voices—pushing for a more humane and sustainable food system; and the Sustainable Agriculture of the Americas Pavilion facilitated by IICA, bringing together the global north and south across the hemisphere.  You can read Food Tank’s coverage of the roadmap, which was announced last year, here.

IIFoodDive: Food system transformation on the menu at COP28

III.  Reuters: Countries urged to curb factory farming to meet climate goals

IV.  The lunch menu: The summit is featuries roughly two-thirds plant-based menu to highlight the link between greenhouse gas emissions and livestock.  But the meat industry is fighting  back.

V.  DeSmog: Big Meat Unveils Battle Plans for COP28

VI.  The Guardian: Plans to present meat as ‘sustainable nutrition’ at Cop28 revealed: Documents show industry intends to go ‘full force’ in arguing meat is beneficial to the environment at climate summit.

VII.  The Meat Institute

The Meat Institute and the Protein PACT for the People, Animals & Climate of Tomorrow will highlight animal agriculture’s commitments and progress toward global goals in multiple high-level engagements at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai November 30-December 12. The Protein PACT has organized or assisted with inviting expert speakers for six panels across five COP28 pavilions, including:

  • December 5 panel in the Food Pavilion, co-organized by IICA and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on the topic of sustainable and healthy livestock production systems
  • December 6 panel in the IICA pavilion, organized by the ​​Canadian Alliance for Net-Zero Agri-food on the topic of achieving net zero in agrifood systems
  • December 8 panel in the IICA pavilion, organized by the Protein PACT on the topic of principles, practices, and proof for animal agriculture driving climate and food security solutions
  • December 9 panel in the IICA pavilion, co-organized by IICA and ILRI on the topic of innovation and investment in livestock systems for climate change adaptation and  mitigation

VIII.  International Dairy Federation & European Dairy Association side event: How Animal Source Food Nourishes The World In Times of Climate Change.

IX. Vox: There’s less meat at this year’s climate talks. But there’s plenty of bull.  Meat and dairy are driving the climate crisis. Why won’t world leaders at COP28 do anything about it?

X.  Food Navigator: on The Emirates Declaration.  Food is finally at the top table but measurable targets are missing.  Over 130 prime ministers and presidents have today signed the Emirates Declaration at COP28 – a first of its kind commitment to adapt and ‘transform’ food systems as part of action on the climate crisis…. Read more

Comment: The Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action is the firsr statement out of this meeting.  It doesn’t mention fossil fuels (the elephant in this particular room) or meat.  But it does propose:

1. Financial and technical support for sustainable solutions, capacity building, infrastructure, and innovations for farmers, fisherfolk, and other food producers.while conserving, protecting and restoring nature.

2. Promoting food security and nutrition.

3. Supporting workers in agriculture and food systems whose livelihoods are threatened by climate change.

4. Strengthening water management .

5. Conserving, protecting and restoring land and natural ecosystems, enhancing soil health, and biodiversity, and shifting from higher greenhouse
gas-emitting practices to more sustainable production and consumption approaches, including by reducing food loss and waste and promoting sustainable aquatic blue foods.

As for how and when?

To achieve these aims – according to our own national circumstances – we commit to expedite the integration of agriculture and food systems into our climate action and, simultaneously, to mainstream climate action across our policy agendas and actions related to agriculture and food

In the meantime, consider these:

What will it take to stop the impending disaster?  This has to be #1 on the advocacy agenda.

Mar 17 2023

Weekend reading: IPES Food

If you aren’t familiar with IPES Food, here is your chance.

IPES-Food – the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems – is a diverse and independent panel of experts guided by new ways of thinking about research, sustainability, and food systems. Since 2015, IPES-Food has uniquely shaped the debate on global food systems reform, through policy-oriented research and direct engagement with policy processes.

The IPES Food panel is an impressive bunch, starting with its co-chairs, Olivier De Schutter, currently UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and Maryam Rahmanian, independent expert on agriculture and food.

Their two most recent reports:

I.  Smoke & Mirrors: Examining competing framings of food system sustainability 

This comes with a background report: Agroecology, Regenerative Agriculture, and Nature-Based Solutions: Competing framings of food system sustainability in global policy and funding spaces.

Together, these cover those key terms, their emergence and evolution, and the ways they are used in global policy and funding.

The report favors use of Agroecology:

Agroecology, and in some uses regenerative agriculture, offer a more inclusive and comprehensive pathway toward food system transformation because they connect social
and environmental aspects of sustainability, address the whole food system, is attentive to power inequalities, and draws from a plurality of knowledges emphasizing the inclusion of marginalized voices.

II.  Special Report: Debt & Food Crisis: Breaking the Cycle of Unsustainable Food Systems, Hunger and Debt

Unsustainable food systems, this says, are major drivers of “the debt crisis. Import dependencies, extractive financial flows, boom-bust commodity cycles,” leaving countries exposed to shocks and unable to invest in climate-resilient food production and food security.

The IPES panel calls for:

  • Debt relief and development finance
  • Reparation of historical food system injustices and the return of resources to the Global South.
  • Putting the interests of the world’s poorest countries and marginalized populations first.

The documents

IPES Food deals with Big Picture issues.  What they say is worth attention.

Nov 15 2022

What’s up with food systems at COP27?

COP27 is the term used to refer to the 27th annual United Nations Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference) taking place last week and this week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

The New York Times has a COP27 explainer with a Q and A

This may be the 27th such conference, but it is the first to deal with the intersection of food production and consumption with climate change: how climate change affects agriculture and food systems and how agriculture and food systems affect climate change.

For the first time, several pavilions are devoted to food systems, this one specifically.

Food Tank is managing some of the programs at these pavilions.  Its president, Danielle Nierenberg, reports on them daily at this site

The official UN news site is here.

On November 12, agriculture was the theme of the day.   This is explained in a short video. 

Water was yesterday’s theme.

I’ve been trying to follow the events from Nierenberg’s comments and from the occasional article in the New York Times, for example, here (what the fights are about), here (videos of speeches), and here (protest and hunger strikes).

The Food4Climate pavilion’s YouTube channel for live streams and videos is here.

The Rockefeller Foundation is involved in COP27.  It sponsors a food and agriculture pavilion.

The Foundation also has produced a film, Food 2050.  The trailer is here.

I’m particularly interested in this film because Rupa Marya, who is attending the conference, says I’m in it and sent me this screen shot (I’m not in the trailer).

Will anything good come out of this COP27?  I’m inspired by this speech from the head of the World Health Organization.  Bringing these issues to public attention might help.


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