Washington — Dr. Barry Popkin, the University of North Carolina nutrition professor who repeatedly blamed meat producers yesterday for contributing more to climate change than transportation, is ignoring Environmental Protection Agency data that directly contradict his claims, the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) claimed today.
In an editorial published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Popkin argued that Americans should reduce their meat consumption in part because a 2006 United Nations report suggests “livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, far greater than that of transportation.” In a Reuters news story today, Popkin said he was “pretty surprised when I checked back and went through the data on emissions from animal food and livestock. I didn’t expect it to be more than cars.”
CCF said today that the EPA has characterized greenhouse-gas emissions related to the entire U.S. agriculture sector — including meat, grain, fruit, vegetable, and fiber producers — as just one-third of what Popkin attributes to meat production alone. Global estimates from the UN publication Popkin cited, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” don’t apply to American meat production.
In April 2008, the EPA released the 473-page “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2006,” a complete account of global-warming-related emissions in the United States and their sources. This report concluded that “the agricultural sector was responsible for emissions of 454.1 teragrams of CO2 equivalent, or 6 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.”
EPA data included in this report also demonstrate that greenhouse-gas emissions related specifically to meat production make up an even smaller part of the total — just 2.58 percent.
“U.S. meat production contributes a laughably tiny amount of carbon emissions to the climate-change picture,” said CCF Director of Research David Martosko. “The 2006 United Nations report mistakenly painted the United States with the same broad brush as China, Brazil, and other countries. But our domestic livestock operations are far more efficient and environmentally friendly. If Popkin had actually checked the data, he’d know that. It’s time for everyone, from the PETAs to the Popkins, to stop spreading environmental misinformation about meat.”