Greenhouse gas: Another reason to connect with consumers

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GREEN BAY, Wis. ― Dairy’s impact on the environment ― the so-called “carbon footprint” — goes down when production efficiency goes up.

“The carbon footprint of a glass of milk is two-thirds smaller today than it was 70 years ago,” internationally recognized air quality expert Frank Mitloehner told those attending the Vita Plus Dairy Summit on Wednesday.

The basic premise is this: When production efficiency goes up, fewer cows are needed to produce the nation’s milk supply, which lessens pressure on the environment.

Yet, the news media continues to run stories that cows are responsible for much of the greenhouse gas emissions in this country. See “Cows singled out again on gas emissions.”

Mitloehner encouraged those in attendance on Wednesday to go out and engage the news media and general public on this issue. “If they don’t hear from you, they will hear from PETA” and other activist groups, he said.

“I really think you have to step forward and meet that challenge of telling people where their food comes from,” he said.

And the production efficiencies make for a compelling case.

“I think the way we produce livestock in this country will be viewed as a role model for the rest of the world,” Mitloehner added.

Since production efficiencies create a smaller carbon footprint, he said it’s important “to hold onto the technologies that have allowed us to become so efficient.” He cited bovine somatotropin as an example.

Mitloehner, professor and air quality cooperative extension specialist at the University of California-Davis, has been named chairman of the United Nations/FAO partnership on Livestock Environment Assessment and Performance (LEAP). A science-based organization like LEAP may be able to get some of the media attention that has gone to activist groups in the past.

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Minnesota  |  December, 12, 2013 at 09:57 AM

The production efficiency argument is great, but it is not sufficient. I would call it necessary but not sufficient. Input usage and byproduct production almost always are reduced by increased efficiency. This has been happening as long as people have lived on this earth. The issue around climate change have occurred in this environment. Those promoting action in response to increased methane in our atmosphere and other climate change issues are asking for new and in some cases dramatic responses. We should not expect those promoting dramatic action in response to climate change to be overly impressed or satisfied with the efficiency argument.

PA  |  December, 12, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Well Bob, if the cattle are more efficient and the number of cows per person is drastically reduced over the last several decades, then the problem is Not the cows. The problem is something else, for instance, the trash going into Land Fills. That mountains produce a huge pile of methane and they have only recently started collecting methane from some of them. The cattle industry has been improving steadily over time and continues to improve. It's high time the cattle and dairy industry start getting positive press. From what we see in agriculture is we get All the blame for everything and we are the only ones make Real progress. And quite frankly we are getting sick of the bad press.

Wi  |  December, 12, 2013 at 12:37 PM

The only hot air is that coming out of Washington. Some global warming would be appreciated here in Wisconsin as it has been below zero for the last few nights and set some new records. Oh that's right it is not global warming anymore it is climate change, something that has been going on for millions of years with no one causing it. When are we as farmers going to say enough is enough and not put up with this farce anymore!

CA  |  December, 17, 2013 at 02:01 AM

It's not clear what they refer as "increase efficiency of the production". Is it because cows are producing more milk? We also have way more people to feed than 70 years ago. I also wonder whether Dr. Mitloehner included on his efficiency calculations the energy spent to produce cow's feed. Keep in mind that most feed or pasture production relies on synthetic fertiliser and that requires a ton of energy for production. Not mending the GHG emissions from the soils where cow's feed is grown or pasture.

CA  |  December, 17, 2013 at 02:02 AM


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