There is a There are many ways to describe a piece of beef. Walk through the meat section of a grocery store in the United States and you’ll be presented with a smorgasbord of meaty descriptors detailing your dinner: Angus, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, grass-fed, vegetarian-feeding, and so on. But soon you’ll see another, more confusing, description on the label: low-carbon.
In November, the United States Department of Agriculture A program approved This will open the way for beef producers to market their meat as low carbon. Producers who can prove that their cattle have been reared in a way that emits 10 percent less greenhouse gases than the industrial baseline can qualify for the certification project, which is run by a private company called Low Carbon Beef.
This is the first time the USDA has approved such certification for beef, and it will ultimately make it easier for manufacturers to recommend that their products be more environmentally friendly than their competitors. “If you go to the isle of meat, you can’t really say that this pound hamburger emitted more than another pound hamburger,” said Colin Bill, a former rancher and founder of Low Carbon Beef. Beal said some small producers have already been certified by his company, although applications for labeling beef as low-carbon must go through a separate USDA approval process. A USDA official said the agency had not yet received any such request.
But some scientists worry that such labels could confuse buyers by dramatically shortening the climate impact of livestock rearing. Beef contains the largest carbon footprint in the diet. In 2018, climate scientists Joseph Purey and Thomas Namesek published their worldwide Analysis of greenhouse gases Emissions involved in the production of 40 common foods. Beef has risen to the top: per gram of protein, beef emits nine times more than poultry, six and a half times more than pork, and 25 Many times more than soybeans. Even lamb, which ranks second in the analysis of Poore and Nemecek, produces less than half the carbon emissions of beef per gram of protein.
Matthew Hayek, an environmental scientist at New York University, says a steak labeled as low-carbon can produce many times more emissions than other foods that a buyer can reach as an alternative. “The point of a label is to communicate something right to the customer,” he says. A low-carbon label “indicates that it has less carbon than anything else they can take in there.” Most of the time, for beef, it just won’t be true.
There are also questions about where you set the benchmark for low-carbon beef. Producers who wish to be certified must provide detailed information on how their cattle have been reared and Bill’s company uses that data to estimate the carbon emissions involved in transporting those cows from birth to slaughter. If the assessment finds that these emissions were at least 10 percent lower than the low carbon beef benchmark, then beef can be verified to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Producers can then use this certificate to support marketing claims made on their labels, which must be approved by the USDA. The agency uses similar programs to control most of the noise displayed on meat labels.
To achieve this certification, low-carbon beef must come down to at least 10 percent of the equivalent of 26.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of carcass weight – a way to express greenhouse gas emissions that take into account the effects of various gas warming. Methane, however, may be a little higher: a 2019 study Beef production in the United States has been shown to produce an average of 21.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of carcass weight.
Karen Beuchemin, a cattle nutritionist at the Department of Agriculture and Agro-Food in Canada, also says the bill’s criteria seem a bit high: in Canada, the average carbon footprint equivalent to about 19 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram until slaughter. Body weight. Higher standards mean that more producers will automatically find themselves within the 10 percent threshold for low carbon beef, which may reduce farmers’ incentives to further reduce their carbon emissions.