Meat & Dairy

MEAT & DAIRY

Here’s the problem:

 “More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75 percent of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production,” a United Nations report, released in May, 2019, says.

In the US alone, cropland occupies about one-fifth of U.S. land and most of that is used for livestock feed. An additional one-third is used for pasture. There’s a single, major occupant on all this land: cows. Between cropland — used to produce feed — and pastures, 41 percent of U.S. land in the contiguous states revolves around livestock.

Trees and forests are a powerful force for climate mitigation. As more forests are cleared for agriculture — mainly to grow soy, raise cattle and produce palm oil — greenhouse gas emissions increase as a byproduct of nitrogen fertilizer and methane from cattle and sheep. Additionally, deforestation eliminates trees which are “breathing in” CO2 and “breathing out” moisture. This releases the carbon dioxide stored in forests.  

The overwhelming majority of the clearing in the Amazon is to make way for cattle and crops that feed cattle.

Based on a UN Food & Agriculture study (2013) it is estimated that the total annual emissions from animal agriculture (production emissions plus land-use change) were about 14.5 percent of all human emissions, of which beef contributed 41 percent. If global demand for beef, goats & sheep grows by 88 percent between 2010 and 2050 (as it is estimated to do), the resulting deforestation could increase global emissions enough to put the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees C (2.7-3.6 degrees F) out of reach. 

Some of the Solutions:

If we improve the way we raise cattle by improving management practices like rotational grazing, productivity and soil health can be boosted while reducing emissions. This means that cattle should be pasture raised, trampling over vegetation and pushing nutrients into the soil. Cow manure then acts as a natural fertilizer reducing the need for unsustainable tilling practices and dangerous synthetic fertilizers.

If we eat ½ the amount of burgers we are currently consuming it would nearly eliminate the need for additional agricultural expansion (and associated deforestation), even in a world with 10 billion people. 

39% of Americans say they want to eat more plant-based foods. Dozens of organizations across the globe have joined Cool Food pledging to make that possible in their facilities. Now serving 800+ million meals annually, hotels, restaurants, hospitals and company cafeterias are offering consumers more of what they want while slashing food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030. 

CURRENT NEWS

How meat and milk companies are racing to ease your climate guilt

By Evan Halper and Laura Reiley 01/22/24
At Hopdoddy Burger Bar near the University of Florida campus in Gainesville recently, Van Morrison crooned “na na, Natalia” and the Sauce Bar was fully stocked. The menu advertised the usual gluten-free and vegan options,…
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Bid by meatpacker JBS to join New York Stock Exchange faces opposition over Amazon deforestation

By Fabiano Maisonnave 01/19/24
In recent weeks, lawmakers in the United States and the United Kingdom have sent letters to the Securities and Exchange Commission cautioning against the listing of JBS, the world’s largest meatpacking company, on the New…
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Big meat and dairy lobbyists turn out in record numbers at Cop28

By Rachel Sherrington, Clare Carlile and Hazel Healy 12/09/23
Lobbyists from industrial agriculture companies and trade groups have turned out in record numbers at Cop28, with three times as many delegates representing the meat and dairy industry as last year.
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Eating less meat would be good for the Earth. Small nudges can change behavior

By Jonel Aleccia and Laura Ungar 11/16/23
Preston Cabral eats meat nearly every day at home, but his favorite meals at school are served on “Meatless Mondays” and “Vegan Fridays.”
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The 20 Farming Families Who Use More Water From the Colorado River Than Some Western States

By Nat Lash and Janet Wilson 11/09/23
Tens of millions of people — and millions of acres of farmland — rely on the Colorado River’s water. But as its supply shrinks, these farmers get more water from the river than entire states.…
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What Happens When Diners Are Shown Climate Warning Labels on Meat Dishes

By Kyla Mandel 11/01/23
The power of the graphic health warning images on cigarette packages that entered widespread usage in the early 2000s has been well studied. Research shows they were successful in deterring people from smoking. In an…
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Yet Another Article Gets It Wrong About Beef and Climate Change

By Anthony Signorelli 09/15/23
Just yesterday, September 8, 2023, Vox.com published an article by Kenny Torrella titled “Climate-friendly” beef could land in a meat aisle near you. Don’t fall for it. They add a subtitle that reads, Tyson Foods…
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Beef guzzlers: 12% of Americans eat half of the country’s cow meat

By Max Graham 09/01/23
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Americans love to stuff their faces with cow meat. There may be nothing more stereotypically American than grilling burgers on the Fourth of July. Meatloaf is a home-cooking classic.…
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Tribes and dairy farmers made a model renewable energy program. It’s about to get even better

By Bellamy Pailthorp 07/19/23
On a dairy farm in Monroe, Washington, a cement pit full of swirling brown liquid flows into an underground tank. State environmental goals, Indigenous-led carbon reduction initiatives and hydrogen energy technology are also swirling around…
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Meet the first generation farmers fighting climate change with cows

By Morgan Anderson 07/06/23
When CJ Morgan goes to a cattle sale, sellers are quick to give him their attention. They don’t realize it’s actually his fiancé, Molly Sowash, who does the buying. “I always have to point and…
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Here’s what we know about lab-grown meat and climate change

By Casey Crownhart 07/03/23
Soon, the menu in your favorite burger joint could include not only options made with meat, mushrooms, and black beans but also patties packed with lab-grown animal cells.
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Why the media too often ignores the connection between climate change and meat

By Kenny Torrella 07/01/23
Last weekend, Elon Musk posted one of his more outrageously false tweets to date: “Important to note that what happens on Earth’s surface (eg farming) has no meaningful impact on climate change.”
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KEY RESOURCES

Animal Rights

01/28/22
Vegetarianism, Veganism, Pescatarianism, Flexitarianism. Never before have there been so many ways to define how and what we eat. But are these choices simply a matter of personal taste, or do they reflect a broader…

Opinion | Let’s launch a moonshot for meatless meat

01/24/22
I’m a vegan, but I’m also a realist. There’s no chance humanity is going to give up meat, en masse, anytime soon. That said, we can’t just wish away the risks of industrial animal agriculture.…

Per capita meat consumption by type, United States, 2020

11/20/19
Meat is an important source of nutrition for people around the world. How quickly is demand growing? And what are the implications for animal welfare and the earth’s environment?

Blitzresults Meat-Calculator

08/30/19
How many animals could continue living if you switched to vegetarian diet? How does the environment benefit?

Beef2Live – Ranking of States With The Most Cattle

08/30/19
Texas had the most cattle in the United States in 2022 followed by Nebraska and Kansas. Thirty (30) states had over 1 million head of cattle. Fourteen (14) states had over 2 million head of…

Plant Based Foods Association

08/30/19
To promote the plant-based foods industry by removing obstacles to a fair and competitive marketplace for alternatives to animal ingredients and products.

Good Food Institute

08/30/19
We work with scientists, investors, and entrepreneurs to make groundbreaking good food a reality. We focus on clean meat and plant-based alternatives to animal products—foods that are more delicious, safer to eat, and better for…

Sustainable Conservation – Dairy Reports

06/24/19
Sustainable Conservation helps California thrive by uniting people to solve the toughest challenges facing our land, air, and water. We bring together business, landowners and government to steward the resources that we all depend on…

MORE NEWS

Climate-Smart Cowboys Hope Regenerative Cattle Ranching Can Heal the Land and Sequester Carbon

By Emma Peterson   06/12/23  
“Hop up, Jo,” said Savannah Barteau. Jolene, a border collie, leapt onto the back of the all-terrain vehicle behind Barteau and her 2-year-old son, Enzo, kicking up sand and water from the wash behind their...
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93 Percent of Climate Content Fails to Connect the Dots to Animal Agriculture

By Nicole Axworthy   06/06/23  
new report has shed light on the alarming lack of coverage given to the role of animal agriculture in climate change. The research, conducted by non-profit news organization Sentient Media and research firm Faunalytics, analyzed…
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Coalition Calls on IPCC to Reject Meat Industry Meddling in UN Climate Process

By Brett Wilkins   05/22/23  
As the United Nations marked International Day for Biological Diversity on Monday, advocacy groups and activists underscored the devastating impact of animal agriculture on the Earth's climate, while urging a leading U.N. panel to rebuff…
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Lab-Grown Meat’s Carbon Footprint Potentially Worse Than Retail Beef

By Amy Quinton   05/22/23  
Lab-grown meat, which is cultured from animal cells, is often thought to be more environmentally friendly than beef because it’s predicted to need less land, water and greenhouse gases than raising cattle. But in a…
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The Meat Industry Is Advertising Like Big Oil

By Cartie Werthman   04/18/23  
Later this month, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) will head to the 2023 National Agri-Marketing Association’s conference to see if its public relations campaign about beef’s sustainability can secure the national award for campaigns…
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The Heat of Meat: Brazil’s beef industry and global warming

04/13/23  
Why the world’s production and consumption of beef and dairy products are at the core of the fight over climate change.
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Meat, dairy and rice production will bust 1.5C climate target, shows study

By Damian Carrington   03/06/23  
Emissions from the food system alone will drive the world past 1.5C of global heating, unless high-methane foods are tackled. Climate-heating emissions from food production, dominated by meat, dairy and rice, will by themselves break…
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How New Zealand plans to tackle climate change: Taxing cow burps

By Rachel Pannett   02/01/23  
George Moss walks through a landscape dotted with grassy knobs of volcanic rock, following a herd of cows meandering along a dirt trail to pasture after their second milking of the day.
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Is your favorite plant-based milk good for the planet? Here’s how they compare

12/01/22  
Oat, soy, hemp, and more: If you’re looking to ditch dairy, the options can be overwhelming. Here’s what you need to know about each milk's environmental effects....
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He’s an Outspoken Defender of Meat. Industry Funds His Research, Files Show.

By Hiroko Tabuchi   11/01/22  
In 2019, three dozen leading researchers sounded a stark warning in a prominent scientific journal: To fight climate change and improve human health, the world needed to dramatically cut back on eating red meat.
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Decolonizing Regenerative Cattle Ranching

By Ray Levy Uyeda   10/13/22  
Native farmers want newcomers to know there’s nothing novel about caring for the land that grows our food. When spring hits, Kelsey Scott finally breathes a sigh of relief. Come May, her 120 cows will…
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California’s ‘Most Sustainable’ Dairy is Doing What’s Best for Business

By Grace Van Deelen   10/03/22  
Steve Shehadey waved at the front desk crew, walked past white walls filled with plaques and awards and settled into his office, piled high with papers: invoices, permits, spreadsheets. On his desk, there’s a milk…
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Veganism Might Not Be the Most Sustainable Diet

By Bob Holmes   08/21/22  
As governments drag their feet in responding to climate change, many concerned people are looking for actions that they can take as individuals—and eating less meat is an obvious place to start. Livestock today account…
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Meat has a big carbon footprint. The Inflation Reduction Act ignores it.

By Kenny Torrella   08/16/22  
The historic Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed into law by President Joe Biden today, will drastically reduce America’s carbon footprint over the next decade, chiefly through speeding the deployment of hundreds of gigawatts of clean…
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The bureau of land management lets 1.5 million cattle graze on federal land for almost nothing, but the cost to the climate could be high

By Georgina Gustin   07/25/22  
The hundreds of thousands of cattle dotting the vast sweeps and ranges of the West have become archetypal features of the American landscape, essentially entwined with a story the nation tells itself of cowboys and…
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Changing cows’ diets could curb emissions. Will farmers dig in?

By Marc Heller   07/14/22  
For as long as people have been milking cows, flies have been little more than pests in the barn. Now, scientists may have found a more constructive on-farm role for the winged insects — as…
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Maine’s First RNG Dairy Digester Now Under Construction

By Emily Holbrook   07/07/22  
Peaks Renewables, a subsidiary of Summit Utilities focused on investing in technologies to decarbonize thermal energy, broke ground on Maine’s first renewable natural gas (RNG) dairy digester on July 6, 2022, in Clinton, Maine.
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You Want to Buy Meat? In This Economy?

By Annaliese Griffin   06/02/22  
The foods that go into Americans’ bag lunches and onto dinner plates cost 10.8 percent more today than they did this time last year. But inflation has not struck every section of the grocery store…
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World’s largest vats for growing ‘no-kill’ meat to be built in US

By Damien Carrington   05/25/22  
The building of the world’s largest bioreactors to produce cultivated meat has been announced, with the potential to supply tens of thousands of shops and restaurants. Experts said the move could be a “gamechanger” for…
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Tasmanian seal deaths mount as Huon Aquaculture increases use of underwater explosives

By Bob Burton   05/09/22  
Huon Aquaculture – now owned by the controversial Brazilian meat company JBS – accounted for more than three-quarters of the seals killed at Tasmanian salmon farms since the start of last year.
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Devouring the rainforest

By Terrence McCoy and Júlia Ledur   04/29/22  
Cattle ranching, responsible for the great majority of deforestation in the Amazon, is pushing the forest to the edge of what scientists warn could be a vast and irreversible dieback that claims much of the…
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The Field Report: Congress Grills Beef Industry Leaders Over Consolidation

By Lisa Held   04/28/22  
This week, lawmakers in both chambers of Congress turned their attention to how consolidation and unfair practices within cattle markets are hurting America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. During two hearings that spanned more than…
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Cow burps drive global warming. Scientists think feeding them seaweed could help

By Walter Wuthmann   04/22/22  
On a recent winter afternoon, a long line of brown Jersey cows lined up for feeding time, jostling for position.
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How the Largest Global Meat and Dairy Companies Evade Climate Scrutiny

By Anna Lappe   03/15/22  
Last fall, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) took out a full-page ad in The New York Times declaring that the U.S. “produces the most sustainable beef in the world” and that “cattle play an…
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How the beef industry is trying to change the maths of climate change

By Zach Boren   03/09/22  
Fresh off the heels of a major methane ‘win’ at the Glasgow climate summit, the American beef lobby is leading a global effort to change how the climate impact of the powerful greenhouse gas is…
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Smarter choices at the dinner table can go a long way to help the Amazon

By Richard Schiffman   03/09/22  
‘We are going to be eating the rainforest in our burgers. This is our moment as Americans to step forward and leverage some pressure to save the world,’ one scientist said.
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US beef industry emerges from Biden’s climate pledges ‘relatively unscathed’

By Matt Krupnick   03/07/22  
The US beef industry has escaped “relatively unscathed” from Joe Biden’s attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to leaders at the industry’s recent CattleCon convention.
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Opinion | Let’s launch a moonshot for meatless meat

By Peter Prato   01/24/22  
I’m a vegan, but I’m also a realist. There’s no chance humanity is going to give up meat, en masse, anytime soon. That said, we can’t just wish away the risks of industrial animal agriculture.…
Read more

Carbon farming: reducing methane emissions from cattle using feed additives

10/26/21  
Feed additives or supplements can reduce methane emissions from ruminant livestock.Livestock produce significant amounts of methane as part of their normal digestive processes. Some feed additives can inhibit the microorganisms that produce methane in the…
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Giant Meat and Dairy Companies Are Dominating the Plant-Based and Cellular Meat Market

By Philip H. Howard   09/22/21  
Nearly every week a major media outlet publishes a headline announcing that a giant meat or dairy processor has acquired full or partial ownership of an “alternative protein” firm—such as JBS buying the Dutch firm…
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Investigation: How the Meat Industry is Climate-Washing its Polluting Business Model

By Caroline Christen   07/18/21  
In February last year, the head of a leading global meat industry body gave a “pep talk” to his colleagues at an Australian agriculture conference.
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What are we doing about dairy emissions?

By Sherry Listgarten   05/30/21  
I’m a big believer in each of us working to reduce our own emissions. But some things are harder than others, and for me I’m pretty stuck on dairy, and especially cheese. I’m not sure…
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Chicken or Beef? Both Contribute to Climate Change, New Study Finds

By Emily Denny   05/30/21  
Curbing the world's appetite for meat is necessary to combat the climate crisis, but global meat consumption is on the rise. Beef cattle have an outsized environmental impact because they belch methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In total,…
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Beefing over beef is a distraction the climate movement can’t afford

By Justine Calma   05/28/21  
Lately, it seems like forgoing red meat has become an unfortunate proxy for environmental credentials. Epicurious, for example, just announced that it will no longer publish articles or recipes with beef in a decision it calls, “not anti-beef…
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The ‘Beef’ With Beef: Cattle, Climate Change, And Alternative Meat

By Sherry Listgarten   05/28/21  
Many people might think of Blake Munger as a cattle farmer as he walks through his pasture land in western Kentucky, but he sees things a little differently nowadays. “I don’t know which is more…
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From Beef to Chocolate, Illegal Deforestation Lurks Behind Your Favorite Everyday Foods

By Anastasia Moloney   05/19/21  
BOGOTA, May 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Nearly 70% of tropical forests cleared for cattle ranching and crops such as soybeans and palm oil were deforested illegally between 2013 and 2019, a study showed on…
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Do We Have To Give Up Meat To Fight Climate Change?

By Robert Kunzig   05/18/21  
I was thinking about Brianna Randall’s article for us this week, about cattle ranchers in the Great Plains who are trying to bring fire back to the tall-grass prairie, when I picked up the Sunday Washington Post and read…
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Is Beef the New Coal? Climate-Friendly Eating Is on the Rise

By Mike Dorning   05/14/21  
Eleven Madison Park, a top Manhattan restaurant, is going meatless. The Epicurious cooking site stopped posting new beef recipes. The Culinary Institute of America is promoting “plant-forward” menus. Dozens of colleges, including Harvard and Stanford, are…
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It’s not just methane—meat production fills the air with noxious particulate matter too

By Shaena Montanari   05/13/21  
Feeding the world is a necessity, but the process doesn’t come without health risks—even in the form of air pollution. Fossil fuel combustion in cars and factories is a notorious cause of air pollution, specifically…
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Air pollution from farms leads to 17,900 U.S. deaths per year, study finds

By Sarah Kaplan   05/10/21  
The smell of hog feces was overwhelming, Elsie Herring said. The breezes that wafted from the hog farm next to her mother’s Duplin County, N.C., home carried hazardous gases: methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide.
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The Tricky Business of Tipping Cows

05/07/21  
A technocultural shift is clearly underway: the future of beef is up for grabs. In rich and even emerging economies, consumption of red meat is flat or falling. Meanwhile, investors have been pouring hundreds of…
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As the war over meat heats up, American beef consumption skyrockets

By Christian Spencer   05/04/21  
America’s consumption of red meat has only increased during the pandemic, but problems cited by climate change experts say this trend needs to be addressed. Whether it is from the grocery stores or ordering takeout,…
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Cows, Pastured Livestock Might Help Fight Climate Change According to Studies

By Margaret Davis   05/02/21  
Environmentalists have long targeted the beef industry because of the adverse effect that raising cows and producing meat and dairy products has on the environment. Allegedly, it hastens global warming because of the greenhouse gases…
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No, Biden has not declared war on meat. But maybe that’s what the world needs

By Arwa Mahdawi   04/28/21  
It looks as if the right are giving themselves heartburn to own the libs. Over the weekend, some prominent US conservatives shared pictures of themselves eating enormous slabs of meat in response to fabricated claims…
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COVID-19 accelerates RethinkX predictions of meat and dairy collapse by 2030, founder says

Megan Poinski   03/22/21  
The COVID-19 pandemic has largely proven — and in some ways accelerated — think tank RethinkX's 2019 report saying the beef and dairy industries will collapse by 2030, James Arbib, RethinkX's founder, said at the virtual New…
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Feeding cows seaweed could cut their methane emissions by 82%, scientists say

By Oliver Milman   03/18/21  
Feeding seaweed to cows is a viable long-term method to reduce the emission of planet-heating gases from their burps and flatulence, scientists have found. Researchers who put a small amount of seaweed into the feed…
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Cutting Out Beef Could Cut Agricultural Land Use In Half

By Lloyd Alter   03/05/21  
Treehugger has been writing about the problems of meat forever, we have been pitching vegetarian and vegan diets for years as a way of reducing one's carbon footprint, and we keep writing posts about reducing…
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Three startups setting out to transform the food system

By Monica Watrous   03/03/21  
KANSAS CITY — Entrepreneurs are developing disruptive solutions to address pressing health and environmental challenges. Perfect Day, Renewal Mill and The Better Meat Co. are among next-generation ingredient manufacturers championing change in the supply chain.
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NYC Mayor’s Offices Urges Public To Reduce Meat Intake To Fight Climate Crisis

By Liam Giliver   03/02/21  
The NYC Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare is urging the public to reduce their meat intake to fight the climate crisis. It sent a newsletter to residents in partnership with World Animal Protection’s Meating Halfway campaign.
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