IT WAS often forgotten that the production of all foods, from vegetables to meat, had an effect on humanity’s emission of greenhouse gases, linked by science to climate change, said animal scientist Judith Capper on Tuesday.
Many environmentalists and nongovernmental organisations have promoted vegetarianism as a solution to human-caused greenhouse gas emission.
Dr Capper, an adjunct professor at the US’s Washington State University, was in South Africa to speak at various events, including one hosted on the East Rand on Tuesday by Chalmar Beef.
She said consumers needed to view meat consumption in context, she said. If every one of the US’s 330-million citizens gave up meat one day a week, it would cut that country’s greenhouse gas emissions by a third of a percent.
The US is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and together, they account for more than 50% of total global emissions, according to UN estimates. The US accounts for 18,27%.
Dr Capper said that growing middle-classes in the developing world meant human meat consumption would inevitably rise and beef production would not be able to produce enough meat to sustainably satisfy demand without feedlotting and the use of growth hormones and other drugs.
The beef industry in the US was more efficient now than it was in 1977 because of these technological advances.
Chalmar Beef director Willem Wethmar said feedlot cattle were not competing directly with people for food because none of the grains they ate were grown specifically for them. If these discards from human food production were not consumed by cattle, they would be sent to landfills, where they would decompose and produce methane, a greenhouse gas.
Agricultural Research Council meat science programme manager Phillip Strydom said a six-month survey of a variety of porterhouse steaks sold by butchers and supermarkets in Pretoria had shown that “the crux of meat quality” was the slaughter method. This was in terms of tenderness, the top priority for South African consumers.