Virginia Farm Bureau Responds to Roanoke Times Commentary

The November 13 commentary, “Animal agriculture struggles show need for alternative protein sources,” in the The Roanoke Times painted an inaccurate picture of the animal agriculture industry, suggesting animal proteins are expensive, environmentally irresponsible sources of human illness. In this response, Wayne Pryor, president of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, explains how Virginia farmers are committed to being good stewards of the land and the environment, and producing a quality product.

Read Pryor’s full commentary below or here:

““Animal agriculture struggles show need for alternative protein sources” (commentary, Nov. 13) painted an inaccurate picture of the animal agriculture industry, suggesting animal proteins are expensive, environmentally irresponsible sources of human illness.

Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, providing the basis for more than 334,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of $70 billion. Animal agriculture is the industry’s largest component. In addition to being a huge economic driver, the animal agriculture sector is a consistent source of safe, affordable and nutritious products, and it is making recognized advances to reduce its environmental impact.

Globally, animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. However, that does not capture the full picture of progress made in developed nations, compared to the impact of developing nations.

Advances in genetics and technology have allowed livestock producers to do more with less.

The United States transportation sector greatly exceeds agriculture in terms of GHG emissions — not the other way around. Livestock contributes only 4% of GHG emissions in the U.S., and between 1961 and 2018 the U.S. beef community reduced GHG emissions per pound of beef produced by more than 40%, while also producing 66% more beef per animal.

Livestock are able to make use of land not suitable for crop production, as well as combat food waste by consuming byproducts that are unusable to humans.

The authors of the Nov. 13 commentary referenced the 17 sustainability goals related to the Paris Agreement of 2015 but failed to mention the agriculture industry’s commitment to being part of the solution, as summarized in the 2020 “U.S. People are also reading… Agriculture’s Opportunities to Contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals” report from U.S. Farmers and Ranchers in Action.

Here in Virginia, livestock producers are doing their part by voluntarily implementing best management practices to reduce agriculture’s impact on water quality.

In the face of food insecurity and food accessibility challenges at home and abroad, animal protein is a smart, nutritious option, given that a 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides more than 10% of 10 essential nutrients and vitamins for less than 10% of your daily calories. In addition, animal byproducts are used to make many other consumer and industrial goods.

The U.S. has the safest and most affordable food supply in the world, and it is irresponsible to suggest otherwise. For example, salmonella presence in tested chicken is at an all-time low for both whole and ground meat, with 98.5% of tests being negative for whole chickens at large processing plants.

We are blessed to have so many food choices, and consumers have the right to make their own purchasing decisions. But it is critical that those decisions be based on reality, not misconceptions and misinformation. Virginia farmers are committed to being good stewards of the land and the environment, and producing a quality product.

After all, they are feeding their families and yours.”

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