What Has More Climate Potential: Sustainable Ranching or a Meatless Diet?

For years, a meatless diet has been heralded as one of the best tools for combating the climate footprint of cattle and other livestock. Now, Climate Central reports that there is a more impactful option. [A study] published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that if livestock producers used their land more efficiently by feeding cattle more high-energy food and using less land for grazing, they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions more effectively than if consumers across the globe consumed less meat and milk.

The Rainforest Alliance’s director of strategic initiatives, Sabrina Vigilante, agrees that on-farm efficiency is more critical to our global climate than going vegetarian. She says, "Perhaps the best advice to help ensure a healthy future for the planet is to both reduce meat consumption and increase farm productivity."

Vigilante adds that the Rainforest Alliance has long been committed to reducing the impact of agricultural activities on the global environment, even introducing standards for sustainable cattle ranching. "In 2010, we launched a set of standards for the sustainable management of cattle farms. The standard includes principles and criteria for reducing GHG emissions, restoring degraded lands, ensuring zero deforestation, and protecting soils, streams, and rivers. In addition, the standards include requirements for feed and animal health and welfare, and mandate proper pasture rotation.

In many parts of the world, eliminating meat would have dire consequences for food insecure communities. Climate Central notes, "In developing countries, where food availability is more sensitive to fluctuations in food prices, removing meat from people’s diets would lead to greater hunger and malnutrition."

Cattle production is responsible for 12 percent of all GHG emissions and is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon. By improving land-use practices and efficiency, ranchers could achieve a 23 percent emissions reduction by 2030 and contribute to the protection of our forest resources.

Ramon nut, a sustainable superfood - photo by Sergio Izquierdo

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