care of our natural resources and creating a product that is not only nutritious but that is a sustainable part of a healthy diet .
Well , as a matter of fact , I know that you did do your homework . Prior to the panel discussion , you asked federal ranchers , through your blog , what they would tell the U . N . about beef production . Could you share some of the more useful feedback that you got from that ?
Absolutely . I definitely wanted to crowdsource on this as I prepared for the presentation , because producers know best . And really , what I wanted to highlight — and what seemed to be a common theme from the responses — was ( that ) ranchers uniquely match , you know , their production practices to their environmental landscape that they ’ re working with .
And so , for example , what I can grow here in South Dakota might be different than ( what ) someone could grow in , you know , California or Africa or somewhere else entirely . And that ’ s really the beauty of beef cattle , is that they fit into this mix , when we ’ re talking about environmental management and production practices , because they can utilize land that would otherwise , you know , sit barren and go to waste .
The pre-summit event featured a lot of talk around things like greenhouse gas emissions , ( which are ) certainly top of mind these days , with the latest U . N . report telling us that the situation may be more pronounced and may be even more dire than we thought . But you chose to focus on real-world ranching applications that folks should know about . And from your perspective , is there a disconnect between what producers know and what the rest of the world perceives about beef production ?
Yes . ( For ) the producers , it ’ s rather frustrating to see the beef cow take the brunt of the discussion on climate change , because the fact of the matter is is that , you know , here in the United States , the U . S . beef industry contributes 3.4 % of total greenhouse gas emissions , according to the EPA . And Frank Mitloehner , who we know very well as an expert in greenhouse gas emissions from UC Davis , he has said if every American were to go meatless on Mondays , as suggested , to help save the planet , it would only reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 0.26 %.
And so , the reality is that we can ’ t eat our way out of climate change , and simply giving up a burger isn ’ t going to move the needle in any significant direction . And just on the food side of things , one thing I ’ d like to tell people is , if they truly want to make a dietary change to help the planet , we need to be focusing on food waste
WINTER ISSUE – DECEMBER 2021 and respecting our harvest , because 40 % of what we grow in the United States ends up in landfills .
And so , if we can respect the harvest , reduce waste and focus on waste ( so ) that we can redistribute some of this abundance and get it to people who need it the most , that ’ s truly what I would like to focus on — outside of , you know , what I ’ m doing on the ranch and raising beef cattle .
You mentioned diet . How is our world diet changing with respect to protein ?
You know , I see this huge push for us to go to , you know , plant-based proteins or eating cricket protein powder or cicadas and other , maybe , things that we ’ re not used to having on our plates here in the United States . But yet , the global consumer is saying , “ We want something else ,” and what they want is more animal protein .
So , global meat consumption is expected to increase 1 % in 2021 , which is really exciting stuff , because producers , I think , are up to the challenge and the task of feeding a hungry planet . And as the middle class is growing around the world and people have more disposable income to spend on food , the first thing that they ’ re wanting to do is update their — their bean-and-rice diet and add some meat to their plates .
And so , again , I think we are up for the challenge . We can produce more beef today using pure and natural resources than ever before , and so , it ’ s an exciting time . And I think , as long as we can curtail some of the regulatory burdens and media campaigns that seek to paint meat in a bad light , the sky is the limit for livestock producers in what they ’ re going to be able to achieve in the coming years .
In a synopsis of the panel discussion , Alltech suggested that calls for reductions in animal agriculture could actually create a protein deficit that , due to the limitations of available arable land and water , can ’ t be overcome by growing crops . Are the implications of this trend not fully understood or recognized by consumers , do you think ?
Absolutely . You know , looking at my pastures here in South Dakota , they are steep and they ’ re hilly , and we get dry , and we absolutely could not plow up these lands and grow anything else . But what we can do is put ruminant animals like beef cattle on the ranch , and they can graze the grass , and when they do that , they ’ re doing a lot of important things . They are aerating the soil with their hooves . They are naturally fertilizing it with their manure . They are protecting the landscapes , which keeps a cover on it with those native grasses that have grown here for a hundred-plus years . And those grasses have roots