Sunday, June 12, 2016

Taxing red meat, the danger of over-reacting to an environmental issue


...Clean rivers and oceans, cleaner air and less smog in our cities and appropriate disposal of our waste is a collective responsibility, and the push over the last four decades to be more aware of the need for a healthy planet has helped enormously to reduce the footprint created by irresponsible and harmful practices imposed by an expanding, modern society.

But, in the effort to explore better ways and methods of protecting our environment, it is becoming more evident that sometimes our best intentions fall short of the mark. Sometimes our proposed solutions represent an over-reach.

This is arguably true when it comes to one of the latest proposals to help reduce the environmental footprint of livestock production by imposing a red meat tax on consumers. Those in favor of such action believe a so-called 'climate tax' on red meat would serve to curb consumer demand and would therefore help to reduce greenhouse gases generated through livestock production.

...From the perspective of the livestock industry, especially the U.S. livestock industry, controlling greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the carbon footprint of commercial livestock operations is like putting a band-aid over a long rip in a hot air balloon and expecting it to keep the balloon aloft indefinitely.

According to a recent report by Matt Bochat, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension agent for ag/natural resources in Victoria County, Texas, research from the University of California-Davis reveals beef cattle production represents about 2.2 percent of total 4.2 percent greenhouse emissions generated by the U.S. livestock industry.

It is important to note that U.S.-produced livestock has the smallest carbon footprint when compared to all other livestock-producing nations. This includes all U.S. livestock including beef cattle (meat production), dairy cattle to produce milk, and the U.S. poultry industry to produce eggs. The smaller carbon footprint is largely the result of production efficiency and new technologies employed to produce these commodities in the United States versus other nations throughout the world.

In fact, the carbon footprint of the U.S. livestock industry has been greatly reduced over the last 65-plus years. For example in 1950, it required an estimated 22 million dairy cows to produce 117 million tons of milk. Today, it takes about 9 million dairy cattle to produce 209 million tons of milk, In other words, 59 percent fewer cows produced 79 percent more milk than they did in 1950.

In similar fashion in 1970, it took about 140 million head of cattle to produce 24 million tons of beef. In modern times the same amount of beef is produced by 90 million head of cattle. This represents a sizable reduction in the overall carbon footprint of the industry.

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