When Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds proclaimed April as Meat on the Table Month, I raised a Breakfast Club style fist in the air in solidarity. It’s pretty cool to have such public recognition for the hardworking men and women across the food chain who produce high-quality, nutritious animal-based proteins that grace our supper tables.
But with nearly all Iowa grocery shoppers putting “meat on the table” weekly, according to Iowa Farm Bureau’s Food and Farm Index, the consumption of animal-based proteins will undoubtedly extend year-round. Ninety percent of Iowans surveyed for the index see animal-based proteins as a healthy option, and they also place a great amount of trust in our state’s farmers to do the right thing for their animals and our environment.
With so much misinformation out there—a point the Governor’s proclamation also addressed—it’s easy for groups and individuals to promote falsehoods and inaccuracies in attempt to shame Americans from eating the nutrient-dense products they enjoy. If anything, Iowa livestock agriculture is a success story for the things many of us hold dear—good food that provides our bodies with the essential nutrients it needs, animals that live a good life and yes, a sustainable environment.
Despite media and political portrayal of livestock’s impact on the climate, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports all of agriculture accounts for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases compared to transportation and electricity at 28 and 27 percent, respectively. And simply put, campaigns encouraging people to participate in events eliminating meat from their diet, whether one day a week or permanently, do very little to move the needle toward less emissions.
As mama to a toddler and an infant, I understand the desire to create a world for kids to thrive, and a healthy planet is part of that. It may surprise you that agriculture is actually on the path to reducing the industry’s greenhouse gas emission by 50 percent. Within livestock agriculture, this reduction is underway:
- Although cattle get a bad reputation in the media, putting these ruminants on well-managed, grazed lands helps capture carbon in the soil. While cattle do emit methane by means of their digestive system, those emissions convert to carbon dioxide absorbed by plants—it’s a natural cycle.
- Iowa farmers have also planted more than 2 million acres of cover crops which help prevent soil loss by blanketing fields in between harvest and the next year’s planting. Not only can these crops be a source of feed for cattle, but studies have shown they also sequester carbon. By applying data from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, Iowa cover crops have the potential to offset nearly 1.3 million passenger vehicles.
The best meal—besides a free one—is one eaten guilt-free. Eating almost exclusively at home in 2020, I upped my meat-cooking skills (even my husband was impressed!). But what made each dish enjoyable wasn’t just the rubs or sauces, it was a clear conscious knowing our family is supporting local farmers with our dollar and putting our faith in them to do the right thing. I hope this summer as you fire up the grill, you’ll also enjoy your favorite cut of real meat with an extra side of peace of mind.