From bedtime stories of weathered cattlemen driving their herds across arid plains to the seductive smell of barbeque, beef is deeply woven into the cultural and economic fabric of Texas. Unfortunately, the industry has become an undeserving scapegoat in discussions surrounding climate change in recent years.
Just this month, I read an article in a West Texas newspaper titled: "Is Beef the New Coal?" As one might guess, the article implied that the market for beef was on a downward trajectory due to consumer environmental concerns and Americans were starting to prefer plant-based and even synthetic protein options over beef.
The article went so far as to wildly declare that, "beef is a climate villain." False claims like this not only deceive the public, but they distort the market and disrupt our food supply chain.
Due to advancements in biotechnology, cattle nutrition, and stewardship practices by producers, the U.S. is a global leader in sustainable beef production. In fact, no other country is as efficient as the U.S., producing 18% of the global beef supply with only 6% of the world’s herd.
Compared to 1977, today’s ranchers produce the same amount of beef with 33% fewer cattle. This is extremely important given the fact that global demand for food will double by 2050.
Additionally, American beef production has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world – 10 to 50 times lower than other countries – and has reduced emissions by 40% while producing 60% more beef than it did in the 1960s. Vilifying the cattle industry as a major climate contributor is intellectually dishonest and absurd when it is responsible for 3.7% of U.S. total greenhouse emissions.
Our nation’s ranchers have catalyzed beef production efficiency by encouraging pasture management, proper nutrition and other sustainability practices. No one cares more about natural resource stewardship or has more motivation to achieve greater sustainability than those farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods depend on it.
With worldwide demand for food on the rise, it is irresponsible and foolish to abandon an asset vital to the agriculture industry. There is no one better equipped to lead the charge of feeding a hungry world than American producers who lead the world in efficient and sustainable product.
In the same way that energy independence is national security, having an affordable and abundant supply of food, independent of foreign adversaries, is essential. If COVID has taught us anything, it is that certain products of national importance must be made in the U.S.
Unless we want to depend on foreign adversaries to feed our families and the growing demand around the world, it is in our best economic and national security interest to support the American farmer and rancher.
While Texans may enjoy a tall tale every now and again, I suggest just sticking to the facts on this one.