That headline might seem like great news for our bovine friends and the environment, but sadly, there’s more to the story:
U.S. beef consumption fell by nearly one-fifth — or 19 percent — on a per capita basis from 2005 to 2014, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said Wednesday in a report. Eating less beef resulted in pollution reductions equal to removing 39 million cars from U.S. roads.
“I’m used to bad news on climate, but this is a rare bright spot,” said Sujatha Bergen, the study’s lead author and a policy specialist in NRDC’s food and agriculture program.
“It doesn’t mean that we’ve done all we can, but it’s very motivating to know we’ve made some emissions reductions,” she said.
But keep reading:
Lance Zimmerman of CattleFax, an industry information service, noted that record drought in Texas and other cattle-growing areas drastically lowered the headcount of cattle in recent years.
U.S. beef production has since recovered, but not all of that extra meat stayed home. The United States was a net exporter of beef from 2011 to 2013, meaning that even though the nation was producing more beef — likely resulting in higher emissions — Americans weren’t actually the ones eating it, Zimmerman said.
Globally, meat consumption is expected to soar by nearly 73 percent by 2050 unless people make a concerted effort to cut back, the Food and Agricultural Organization estimated.