The world’s protein companies still failing to address their environmental impact


5006431374_a888dc5f7c_o.jpg
(Mike Myers/flickr)

Kasey Dresser| September 9, 2019

The Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index, in its second active year, just released their report analyzing the environmental, social, and governance risks of meat, dairy, and farmed fish producers. One large take away from this year’s study was the lack of attention given to environmental and animal welfare by some of the world’s largest protein producers.

The FAIRR Index looked at 60 different companies and found evidence of lacking sustainability efforts for greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, food waste, conditions for workers, antibiotic use, and animal welfare. Only 30% of the analyzed companies were able to give the researchers specific environmental strategy plans which focused only on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One-quarter of the companies refused to even disclose their use of antibiotics on their animals.

As more research regarding climate change emerges, this isn’t just a problem for consumers. The conversation is shifting toward some of the financial consequences of severe weather for these large companies.

“What we’re seeing is that companies in the sector are contributing to many of the risks we discuss in the report, but they’re also deeply vulnerable…to the impacts of climate change,” says FAIRR’s Head of Research, Aarti Ramachandran. In an interview with Forbes, Ramachandran gave an example of an Australian Agricultural Company that lost over $100 million in damages due to extreme flooding.

Ramachandran does leave the report on a positive note acknowledging the increased investments in plant-based proteins by meat and dairy companies. He stated, “we think that, overall, there should be a rebalancing of protein so that animal protein consumption doesn’t continue to grow at the same trajectory, and so that there is a sustainable balance between plant-based and animal-based food.”

The Amazon is on fire due to the world’s high demand for beef


Image from Pexels.com

By Julia Shanahan | August 30th, 2019

The ongoing fire in the Amazon rainforest can be attributed to the world’s high demand for beef.

Brazil is one of the world’s leading exporters of beef and cattle, and with an increasing demand for meat, farmers are pushed to set fire to the rainforest in order to clear land. That land is also used to grow soy to feed chickens and pigs. While this practice is illegal, it is rarely enforced, according to a report from the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

In the report, it says beef exports make up 2.33 percent of Brazil’s economy, and the country exports 20 percent of the beef it produces, using the remaining 80 percent to feed the country of 200 million people. The demand for beef in Brazil increases by ten percent every year, along with the need for more farmland. There are 232 million heads of cattle in Brazil — one per each Brazilian resident.

While the need for agriculture expansion caused the fire, beef production comes with its own environmental risks as well. In the CU report, it says one pound of beef requires about 298 square feet of land and 800 liters of water, and an average cow produces about 400 pounds of meat. So, one cow requires 84,000 jugs of water and about two football fields worth of farmland. Additionally, one-third of all freshwater on earth is used for livestock.

The report says that an immediate solution to threat in the Amazon is to reduce the demand for meat, naming China and the EU as some of Brazil’s top customers. The report encouraged those countries to import some of their beef from other countries to lessen the impact on Brazil. Local beef consumption in Brazil needs to be curbed as well.

On The Radio- Chimpanzees feel anxiety too


90526325_f354e49984_o.jpg
(flickr/Aaron Logan)

Kasey Dresser| July 14, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how social stress manifests in chimpanzees. 

Transcript: 

Chimpanzees react to social stress, just like humans.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Behavioral dominance is the hierarchical relationship between members of a community established through force, aggression or even submission. In many animal species, dominant individuals have health and fitness benefits, more than their peers. However, a new study from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology uses chimpanzees to study some costs of behavioral dominance. 

In a community of chimpanzees, there are periods where the social dominance hierarchy shifts and there is competition among the males. Surprisingly, a majority of chimpanzees become less aggressive during that time due to stress. The senior author for the study, Roman Wittig, explained that chimpanzees are territorial but employ conflict management to diminish the risk of injuries. 

This reaction is not only behavioral. The authors collected urine samples and discovered high cortisol levels, indicating high stress, during such periods. The study showed that aggression alone is not a good indicator of competition between chimps.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

 

 

 

 

On The Radio- Carbon dioxide’s effect on record high temperatures


15265568536_2814f547e2_o.jpg
Sunrise (flickr/uditha wickramanayaka)

Kasey Dresser| July 8, 2019

This week’s segment looks at the influence of carbon dioxide on the record high-temperature levels this year. 

Transcript: 

Ocean carbon dioxide levels hit a new record early this month, as it was 84 degrees near the Arctic Ocean.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus. 

Temperatures rose to 84 degrees in the northwest of Russian near the entrance of the Arctic Ocean, a rural area in eastern Russia where the average high temperature is around 54 degrees this time of year. 

Many locations around Russia set record high temperatures. This particular heat wave, a manifestation of the arrangement of weather systems and fluctuations in the jet stream, fits into what has been an unusually warm year across the Arctic and most of the mid-latitudes.

In the meantime, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere surpassed 415 parts per million for the first time in recorded history — the highest in at least 800,000 years, and possibly the highest levels in over 3 million years. Carbon dioxide levels have risen by nearly 50 percent since the Industrial Revolution.

These numbers altogether serve as indicators of the damages done by modern civilization to the environment and the contributions humans have made towards climate change.

For more information, visit Iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org. 

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason. 

Farms no longer have to report air emissions caused by animal waste


Photo from Pexels.com

By Julia Shanahan | July 5th, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule that will exempt farms from reporting air emissions caused by animal waste. 

Reporting will still be required for the release of animal waste into water. This exemption is in the form of an amendment to EPCRA section 304, where its main purpose is to alert emergency responders of dangerous emissions, like chemical leaks, so they can potentially evacuate a community or alert locals to seek shelter. In a news release, the EPA said this final rule will ensure that “emergency planners and local responders receive reports that focus on these kinds of emergencies.”

This new rule also applies to decomposing animal waste. All other hazardous emissions above a recommended threshold will still need to be reported. 

Animal waste emissions into the air can increase the risk for respiratory health issues like asthma, and also contribute to climate change. A 2013 report from the UN Food and Agriculture Association said that 7.1 gigatons of CO2 emissions can be attributed to the global livestock sector annually.

Iowa is the country’s leading producer of animal and human waste. The Iowa Environmental Focus reported on research engineer Chris Jones’ March study that calculated how many people each livestock group accounted for in terms of the amount of waste it produces, and called it Iowa’s “real population.”

While Iowa has a population of just over 3 million people, this is what Jones found in his March study and lists in his blog:

  • Iowa hogs: equivalent to 83.7 million people
  • Dairy cattle: 8.6 million people
  • Beef cattle: 25 million people
  • Laying chickens: 15 million people
  • Turkeys: 900,000 people

On The Radio- Increasing Mass Extinctions


39600257281_6d01069d80_o.jpg
The Iberian Lynx: a cat species from Spain. There are only a few hundred left in the world. (flickr/Mario Nonaka)

Kasey Dresser| June 24, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how human beings are causing mass extinction of over one million species

Transcript: 

Earths landscapes are changing and about one million species are in danger.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

With the human population passing seven billion, homo sapiens are pushing animals out of the picture in need for more space.

The sharp decline in species is likely to occur by 2050, and it will affect biodiversity. Humans are not the only problem that animals have to face, but global warming as well, a natural result of human treatment towards the environment. 

Nature provides trillions in non-monetized saving that benefits human beings every year. If wildlife and tropical rain forests cease to exist, our medicine would change drastically. Over 23 percent of the planets land area is being harmed because humans are producing more food than ever, causing land degradation. 

Our previous miniscule efforts of creating wild life refuges and efforts to protect individual species will no longer be sufficient.  Scientists have stated that nations need to step up in their efforts to protect natural habitats.  

For more information, visit Iowa environmental focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.