Originally published by POLITICO

President Joe Biden is not going to ban red meat. In fact, his administration isn’t doing much to confront the flow of harmful greenhouse gases from the very big business of animal agriculture.

The Agriculture Department’s newly published “climate-smart agriculture and forestry” outline says almost nothing about how Biden aims to curb methane emissions from livestock operations. But environmentalists argue that any effort to shrink the farm industry’s climate footprint is half-baked if it relies on voluntary efforts and doesn’t address America’s system of meat production.

“USDA is setting itself up to fail on its climate and environmental justice goals,” says Chloe Waterman, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth U.S., a nonprofit environmental advocacy group.

USDA didn’t respond to several requests for comment on this article.

The problem is that meat has become an intense culture war issue. Look no further than the manufactured outrage over the recent right-wing media attack falsely claiming that Biden wants to control each individual’s beef intake. Or look at the steady stream of press releases by farm-state lawmakers blasting any hint that federal or local governments are somehow helping “meatless Monday” campaigns.

But by the numbers, agriculture is a significant part of the climate problem: it accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gases. Livestock production — everything from raising pigs for bacon to dairy herds — is the largest source of potent methane emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That means addressing how we produce and consume meat is critical to Biden’s pledge to put the U.S. on track to reach net-zero agricultural emissions before any other nation.


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