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Animal Ag’s footprint on the environment

Livestock producers have been having to defend themselves more and more against environmentalists who are charging that animal agriculture is the largest detriment to the environment.

On Thursday, Iowa State University held their annual Iowa Swine Day. The first address was by Dr. Frank Mitloehner of the University of California, Davis. Dr. Mitloehner has done extensive research into the effects the animal ag industry is having on the environment.

Dr. Mitloehner says that when we look at greenhouse gasses, we tend to look at three culprits. Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), and Nitrous Oxide (N2O).

Of course, Animal Ag is generally associated with methane production. Dr. Mitloehner talked about how much methane is produced by animal agriculture, compared to how much “sinks”. Sinking means how much of the methane is broken down into CO2 out of the atmosphere every year. The difference is only 10 teragrams. Animal ag is creating a carbon cycle, not a carbon increase.

Mitloehner addressed the claims that the planet needs to go strictly away from animal agriculture. He illustrated the number of marginal lands on the planet which animals help maintain, versus arable lands. He also talked about the needs of organic fertilizers to grow the vegan diet. We all know where it comes from, but not everyone understands the carbon cycle of agriculture.

To wrap up the talk, Dr. Mitloehner discussed the results of how much carbon would be saved by one human going vegan for one year. It would only amount to half of the carbon footprint created by one trans-Atlantic flight. He also broke down meatless Mondays and the whole world going vegan.

That again was Dr. Frank Mitloehner of UC Davis at the 2019 Iowa Swine Day at Iowa State University.