Should you really care about carbon footprints?

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Last May, a reader chided me after I ran an article on milk’s carbon footprint and how it has gone down over the past 67 years.

“…do you really think anyone with a brain cares about the ‘carbon footprint’ of milk? Give me a break. Dairy farms are vanishing, the industry is being destroyed by USDA regulations and someone is actually concerned about phantom science. Please concentrate on improved profitability issues and preserving remaining dairies,” he wrote.

That comment, posted in the reader-comment section of our daily electronic newsletter, made me think: Does anyone really care about carbon footprints? Should they care?

Recently, I was reminded once again that they should.

The dairy industry is engaged in a public-relations battle on many fronts. One of those fronts, of course, is the natural environment and how dairy is impacting it.

Several people forwarded me a blog that was run on the TIME magazine web site entitled, “How meat and dairy are hiking your carbon footprint.” It was the usual anti-meat, anti-dairy diatribe, and I won’t go into specifics. A few years ago, when we looked into a TIME magazine article entitled “The Real Cost of Cheap Food,” we realized it was slanted toward a particular point of view.

But some people believe this stuff and think it is objective journalism.

That is why the dairy industry must take the carbon footprint debate seriously and have a good argument in place for the critics.

I do not profess to be an expert on the subject. But I have heard dairy scientist Jude Capper, of Washington State University, speak on the issue numerous times. What she says makes perfect sense: We have reduced our carbon footprint by a significant amount over the past 60 to 70 years because there are fewer cows and the production systems have become more efficient. In 1944, there were 25.6 million dairy cows — nearly 17 million more than currently is the case. Seventeen million fewer cows means there is less methane produced!

Of course, it is more complicated than total number of cows. There are a number of factors, including crop production and the inputs needed to produce milk. Scientists have determined that a typical dairy farm produces 1.35 pounds of carbon equivalent for every pound of milk produced. It’s become a science and you need to stay on top of it!

The animal-rights activists and liberal media are doing everything they can to bring down modern agriculture. It is your duty to be aware of this and fight back.

Yes, you should care about carbon footprints.

Note: This was first posted as a commentary on our daily electronic newsletter known as Dairy Herd Network. I usually get some thoughtful comments in the reader-comment section. Here is one from a person in Vermont: “Believe in Global Warming or not, the reality is people decide to spend or not to spend money based on their belief in climate change and the health of the environment. We must realize that people want to think they are causing less pollution than they did yesterday. If a consumer is convinced (whether right or wrong) that modern agriculture is destroying the earth, we will lose that consumer for life. Oh, and don’t forget. Now that person’s spouse, children and easily influenced friends now believe modern ag is the enemy. Dairy’s carbon footprint may not need lots of attention, but it certainly needs some.”

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Toronto  |  September, 12, 2011 at 10:02 AM

ALGORE is my shepherd; I shall not think. He maketh me lie down in Greenzi pastures: He leadeth me beside the still-freezing waters. He selleth my soul for CO2: He leadeth me in the paths of self-righteousness for his own sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of reason, I will fear no logic: for thou art with me and thinking for me; Thy Gore’s family oil fortune and thy 10,000 square Gorey foot mansion, they comfort me. Thou preparest a movie in the presence of contradictory evidence: Thou anointest mine head with nonsense; my fear runneth over. Surely blind faith and hysteria shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of ALGORE forever.

Peter de Jong    
Ede, the Netherlands  |  September, 13, 2011 at 03:06 AM

Yes, care about carbon foot print of dairy BUT relate it to the nutritional value and find out that milk is one of the most sustainable beverage (see also Smedman et al. Food and Nutrition Research 2010)!

hal |    
new amsterdam  |  December, 04, 2011 at 08:41 AM

This makes sense, but it is true - the consumer needs to be informed. having an fact filled discussion can only benefit everyone involved.


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