The United States is one of the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gasses, and following the Paris Climate Conference held in December of last year, we’re trying to improve that, partly through more rigorous monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, there’s one big problem: we’re not monitoring meat production.

cows grazing in a pasture

Cows, as many people are aware, produce a great deal of methane, through flatulence as well as manure. Currently, livestock production around the world accounts for about 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more that all vehicles combined. Since we aren’t monitoring those emissions here in the States, we’re actually underreporting emissions by about 4%. Why aren’t we?

Well, because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) isn’t allowed to monitor meat producers. Congress added a provision in 2008 that prevented the EPA from monitoring those emissions, and renewed it on January 1st. Why would they do that? For the same reason Congress always throws the environment under the bus: money.

Meat is huge business in the United States, which eats more meat per capita than any other country. And to make matters worse, beef dominates that market, and cows produce more methane than other animals. And although methane doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, it does retain far more heat, thus contributing more to global warming.

But Congress is afraid that, if the EPA regulates those emissions, it will affect the bottom line of meats producers, who will increase costs to the public, who will get very upset about it. Not enough people know about how much the meat industry contributes to climate change, which seems like a lame excuse for not doing something about it.

In fact, WH Group, a company that owns 1 in 4 pigs in America, has pointed out that, while they don’t submit information to the EPA because they don’t have to), doing so wouldn’t actually hurt their bottom line at all. So Congressional fears are unfounded, but they’re still negatively impacting the world.