industry that a very small percentage of our population work in much more relatable , much more relatable to those who don ’ t have access to a farm .
How can scientists like you in the agri-food industry support those narratives that farmers are sharing with consumers through TikTok or Instagram ?
That ’ s a really great question , Tom . And I love this . The most important thing is to like what they ’ re doing , share them with your platform , share them with your followers so you keep getting their message out there . And if you ’ re willing to dive into the conversations — sometimes they can get a bit heated and touchy , when you get into the comments on a lot of those farmer ’ s pages . And I applaud every single one of the farmers who are willing to take that on and be on social media in that way , but the things that we can do as scientists , especially , is to back up what the farmers are saying . So , show that the farmers aren ’ t unique cases , and link to other farmers who are saying and doing the same thing . And when people start asking , you know , “ Why do they do it this way ?” or “ Why are you making this particular decision ?” to then link and discuss the science and the research that goes into those decisions that farmers are making . This way , it ’ s not just an arbitrary , “ We ’ ve always done it this way ,” or “ I think this is right for me .” There is actually a huge knowledge base of science and research that is guiding all of these to allow farmers to be both sustainable and productive .
Climate change and the greenhouse gases contributing to it have never been under as much scrutiny as they are today . And agriculture is often singled out as a culprit — ruminants and cattle ,
WINTER ISSUE – DECEMBER 2021
in particular . As one whose work focuses on understanding impacts of animal production on the environment , how do you respond to that ?
My first answer is always going to be , “ Carefully .” The most important thing to me is : don ’ t deny and don ’ t get angry . Absolutely , agriculture — and cattle , in particular — contribute to greenhouse gases and global climate change . I like to start with whatever resource or citation the person that I ’ m talking to is pulling from . So , say someone has said , you know , “ Cows are responsible for 14 % of greenhouse gas emissions .” Let ’ s work with that number . That number comes from the FAO . It ’ s not wrong , but it ’ s actually the easy global figure for all of animal agriculture . So , if we put that in the context that , for most of the conversations lately , have been in the U . S . — so in the United States , the EPA gives the number of greenhouse gas emissions of 10 % for all of agriculture , with about 34 % of that being animal agriculture and ruminant , in particular . Now , that 34 % sounds like a lot , but it ’ s 34 % of 10 %, which means it ’ s 3.4 % of the total U . S . greenhouse gas emissions . Now , if we compare that back to other sectors — which , I think , is absolutely critical — the same EPA says that 29 % of greenhouse gases come from the transportation sector and 25 % are related to energy production . When you put that 3.4 % of emissions from ruminants in that context , plus the 29 % for transportation and 25 % for electricity , it doesn ’ t seem quite as important . But if all you see is that , you know , 34 % of agriculture is ruminants or 14.5 % of global greenhouse gases are agriculture , those numbers seem scary and big . So , it ’ s really important to have the context and the comparisons for these conversations . And like I said , don ’ t deny . Do we contribute ? Absolutely . Are we constantly working to contribute less ? Yes .