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Cattlemen’s group responds to misinformation in New York Times opinion pieces

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

It is incredibly disappointing media outlets, such as the New York Times, continue to publish opinion pieces called “Meet the People Getting Paid to Kill Our Planet,” which not only threaten the livelihoods of American farmers and ranchers, but are also riddled with misinformation and lacking in credible sources.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) primary goal is protecting the livelihoods of America’s cattle farmers and ranchers. It is a responsibility to ensure these men and women have the ability to pass their farms and ranches – 90 percent of which are family-owned and operated – down to the next generation. 

The vast majority of these family-owned, multi-generational operations are small in size with fewer than 50 head of cattle. They rely on NCBA to protect them from misinformation and attacks by activists aiming to put them out of business with tactics like the faulty information and sensationalist reporting included in this piece. 

NCBA is armed only with fact-based, credibly-sourced and scientifically-vetted information, which is often less interesting than the wild claims made by opponents of American agriculture.

To address all the incorrect claims made in the 14-minute video would be akin to writing a thesis, but in support of American beef farmers and ranchers, NCBA would like to address several. Simply put, the claims about emissions and land use are not true.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), beef cattle are responsible for only two percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S. Add in the production of animal feed and necessary fuel and electricity, all beef production is still only responsible for 3.7 percent of GHG emissions in the nation. 

By contrast, transportation accounts for 29 percent of GHG emissions and electricity accounts for nearly 25 percent of GHG emissions in the United States.

Almost a third of U.S. land is too rocky or dry to be used for growing food crops, but it’s perfect for cattle. This otherwise inarable land allows for cattle to contribute more than three-times as much high-quality protein to the U.S. food supply than they consume, directly helping to increase food security in the nation.

Not only this, but science shows cattle ranches provide numerous ecosystem benefits like preserving wildlife habitats, defending against invasive plants, mitigating wildfires and storing carbon. 

In fact, the U.S. lands cattle graze and preserve are crucial for carbon sequestration, as they are estimated to contain 10 to 30 percent of the carbon stored in soil.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) continues to take swings at the industry without an understanding of how the industry actually operates and the sustainability measures which have long been in place. Enjoying beef and supporting America’s farmers and ranchers is not a partisan issue. 

America’s cattle farmers and ranchers have long been stewards of the land, air and water resources upon which their livelihoods depend. It is probably difficult for a vegan from New Jersey to understand the role of agriculture in rural communities, but it’s critical to the continued success of America.

To suggest farmers and ranchers sharing their stories is part of a “myth” and a lobbying strategy is untrue and offensive. 

Cattle farmers and ranchers understand the importance of protecting natural resources, and they are continuously working to improve their practices in ways which benefit their land and their animals. 

They put into place management plans, invest in education and practices which improve animal welfare, reduce runoff from pastures and protect intact grasslands where cattle graze and animals like deer, elk, antelope and migratory birds depend upon. Cattle farmers and ranchers have set goals for continuous improvement.

Because of decades of research, innovation and improvement, the U.S. is the global leader in sustainable beef production. 

Examples of innovation include enhanced productivity practices such as improved cattle genetics, more precise animal nutrition, increased resilience and efficiency and improved resource use, among others. This is why U.S. beef’s carbon footprint is 10 to 50 times lower than other regions of the world.

In fact, between 1961 and 2019, the U.S. beef industry has reduced emissions per pound of beef by more than 40 percent while also producing more than 60 percent more beef per animal.

The beef industry shares a commitment to sustainability. It would be nice if the solution was as simple as eliminating a single food from our plates, but it’s not. 

Sharing opinion pieces which masquerade as journalism is irresponsible and damaging to the livelihoods of nearly a million farmers and ranchers across the country. We’re disappointed in the New York Times’ decision to publish this piece without properly vetting the information, and we’ll continue to defend against misinformation and propaganda which targets American agriculture without apology.

The NCBA has represented America’s cattle producers since 1898, preserving the heritage and strength of the industry through education and public policy.  

This article is courtesy of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Send comments on this article to 

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