A couple months ago, I was zipping through my emails and learned that Bayer sent out a tweet in late June that said: “Going vegetarian can cut your carbon footprint in half.” I couldn’t believe my eyes and had to read it again: “Going vegetarian can cut your carbon footprint in half.” Doubling down on its proclamation Bayer linked to a Vox.com article looking at a new meat-consumption study in the United Kingdom than concluded:
“Analysis of observed diets shows a positive relationship between dietary GHG emissions and the amount of animal-based products in a standard 2,000 kcal diet. This work demonstrates that reducing the intake of meat and other animal based products can make a valuable contribution to climate change mitigation.”
Wow! A major agribusiness company willing to tell what current research is saying about climate change despite how it might impact its bottom line with the nation’s farmers and ranchers.
The issue is highly controversial among farmers despite a lot of research suggesting reducing meat consumption could cut the world’s carbon footprint. For example, a 2014 study from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States found beef releases five times more greenhouse gases than pork or chicken and eleven times more greenhouse gases than growing potatoes, rice, and wheat.
That Bayer was taking a stand on the issue was remarkable.
Bayer had barely tweeted before backlash erupted from U.S. producers and ranchers. Many questioned why Bayer would call to reduce profits by shrinking the size of their herds.
Bayer couldn’t take the heat. Bayer deleted its original post and tweeted apologies directly to about 130 twitter users who complained online with a tweet that read: “The livestock industry feeds our planet & we’re glad to support it. It was never our intention to antagonize it – sorry!”
A Bayer spokesperson said the tweet was a mistake and did not reflect company views on meat production. Well, we probably won’t know for sure if Bayer’s tweet was a “mistake.” What we do know is that the agri-giant acted predictably, putting its self-interests and profits ahead of advancing a needed national dialogue over how our food choices now will influence whether we can feed the world five decades from now. It’s a shame.
About Dave Dickey
Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For the past 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for Big Ag Watch covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column reflects the writer’s own opinions and not those of Big Ag Watch