Let’s talk about pushing back first. One of the first rules of marketing is that you’ve got to get the message right. And the message that a lot of consumers are hearing about animal agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions is wrong. Flat wrong. One of the statistics that seemed to be cultivated at COP27 in November was that 20% of global emissions come from animal agriculture. Huh? Based on what? Turns out a study published in Nature last year, conducted by the Stockholm Environment Institute, is the “source.” NAMI, in trying to understand the discrepancy between these figures, learned that Twine, the author of the study in Nature, is a social scientist and the research advisory chair of the Vegan Society, not a climate or greenhouse gas scientist. Anti-ag activists have latched onto the wrong number and are disseminating it to consumers.
The real number: 14.4%. It is based on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) research. Research that is widely viewed as reputable and fair. (As a friendly reminder, the U.S.’ animal ag contribution is less at 4%.)
All too often those of us in animal agriculture go about our day with our heads down, just working to get the work done. We hear and see things but don’t comment. This can no longer be the case. We must push back. If you see the erroneous 20% being used, speak up to correct this misinformation. Share the valid figures every chance you get.
The other part of our sustainability effort needs to be pushing through. This means continuing to do the work we are doing while also talking about it. Up and down the supply chain, we are making strides to understand and reduce emissions. The American Hereford Association is doing research in collaboration with AgNext at Colorado State University to study how genetics contribute to methane production and nitrogen excretion. Certified Angus Beef is partnering with Ducks Unlimited to preserve grasslands, sequester carbon and improve biodiversity. Walmart invested in Sustainable Beef, LLC this year, making it clear they have made sustainability in the beef supply chain a priority. The list goes on…
The push for a sustainable food supply is getting more intense. Right now, consumers aren’t entirely sure how sustainability translates to the meat case – whether it’s about their own health, the animal’s health or the health of the planet. But by this time next year, I expect it will become a lot clearer what direction consumers are pushing us. For now, though, here are the messages consumers want to hear:
- Producers and the companies selling meat take full responsibility for the care of each animal.
- We in animal agriculture make our living from the Earth and tend to it mindfully.
- Above everything else, we maintain a primary goal of producing safe, healthy food.
We will continue pushing forward on sustainability in 2023. When we succeed in giving consumers meat products that they deem sustainable, we will earn new consumer confidence. Getting there will mean pushing back on disinformation and pushing ahead with meaningful sustainability goals.
Wishing each of you a prosperous, sustainable 2023. Keep pushing!
PS: You may notice that I did not link to the Nature study. I did this on purpose. If you want to read it, feel free to search for it. I simply didn’t want to give them the pleasure of thinking those of us in the meat industry were interested in the study by showing the people on meatingplace.com’s website clicked on the link here to read it.