Will beef be off the menu after UN climate change report?

By  | 

CHARLOTTE, Vt. (WCAX) A recent UN climate report says the way the world produces its food contributes to climate change. It emphasized the link between beef production and methane, a potent greenhouse gas. So how do beef producers feel about the possibility of a global trend away from beef? We sent our Ike Bendavid to find out.

On his 160-acre farm in Charlotte, Steve Schubart runs the Grass Cattle Company. It's a big change from his first career.

"I mean being a cowboy is way more fun than being an economist," Schubart said.

On this farm, the 60 cows are all grass fed. Schubart says it's an environmentally friendly way to raise beef cows. Compared to the conventional beef system where they are fed grain, he says this way is better for the environment.

"In doing that, the carbon footprint of this beef is inherently smaller than the carbon footprint of conventional beef finished in a feedlot," Schubart said.

And he says being grass fed in the shifting agriculture market is an advantage.

"Just like people are drinking less milk nowadays, people are probably going to drink, I mean eat less meat, but it should be a better quality meat," Schubart said.

Climate activists say it's not just about reducing meat consumption; it's about making sure food sources are sustainable.

"Eating more sustainably grown products, not just meat but also vegetables and grains," said Jaiel Pulskamp of 350 Vermont.

Pulskamp works on solutions to fight climate change for 350 Vermont. She says if you're going to eat red meat, think local. Most Vermont beef is grass fed. On top of that, shipping and storing beef means refrigeration which means more greenhouse gas emissions.

"We need to transition out of industrial agriculture practices," Pulskamp said.

People WCAX News asked say it's going to take more to fight climate change.

"Having one less hamburger is not going to solve anything. It might be taking a stance, saying, 'Oh, look at me. I'm having one less in front of my friends.' But I don't think it's going to decrease the demand for beef in America," said Shelby Piccinic of New Jersey.

"I eat a lot of vegetables already so I feel pretty solid in supporting the environment and my lifestyle," said Graham Meigher of Burlington.

Back on the farm, Schubart says with his regenerative agriculture he feels confident in the future.

"I personally believe that people are going to eat beef forever," he said.