National Egg Farmers Defends Against False Air Emissions Claims

We wish to respond to the Food & Water Watch report published by the Wisconsin Gazette “Group Calls on Ban on Factory Farming in US”. It’s important to hear farmers’ views. We question the facts behind F&WW’s policy proposals calling for transitioning to diversified operations and rebuilding the infrastructure for smaller-scale farms. The report claims to outline the climate impacts, and air and water pollution concerns. Animal agriculture for meat, dairy and eggs contribute only a small part of the U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emission totals. According to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 only 2.8% of GHG emissions came from animal agriculture and manure management. This contrasts to the emissions from electricity generation at 34%, transportation 26% and Industrial emissions at 12%. Since 1990, animal agriculture's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions has remained nearly constant. This is amazing considering increases in egg production of nearly 30%, meat production of 50%, and milk production of 16%. The fact that GHG emissions from U.S. animal agriculture have remained relatively constant while meat, milk and egg production has increased dramatically results from large scale animal agriculture operations that have worked to improve feed efficiencies, better manure management strategies and efficient use of cropland.


The National Egg Farmers are pleased to note that eggs consumed by the nation’s consumers have increased 13% during the timeframe referenced above. Yet the U.S. egg production has significantly decreased its environmental footprint in the past 50 years, according to A Comparative Assessment of the Environmental Footprint of the U.S. Egg Industry in 1960 and 2010.  Researchers at the Egg Industry Center in Ames, IA found that today’s hens are living longer due to better health, better nutrition and better living environments. These researchers studied U.S. egg production from 1960 to 2010. It’s noteworthy that today’s egg farmers are producing more eggs in 2010, yet the total environmental footprint in 2010 was 54% - 63% lower than the environmental footprint in 1960. Using 1960 technology to produce the 2010 egg supply would have required 78 million more hens, 1.3 million more acres of corn and 1.8 million more acres of soybeans. In comparison to 1960 technology, today’s egg farmers are able to feed 72% more people.


Now consider the benefits of large scale commercial farms. Today's American farmer feeds about 144 people worldwide. Approximately 85 percent of U.S. grazing lands are unsuitable for crop production. Grazing animals on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food. Meat, milk and eggs are an essential part of a balanced diet because they are nutrient dense and are considered complete proteins, meaning that they contain all nine of the essential amino acids needed by humans. A 2006 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report estimated total GHG emissions resulting from animal agriculture around the world and this may be reasons for claims. We must remember that applying global percentages from agriculture to the U.S. are misleading because the vast majority of global GHG emissions attributed to livestock production result from deforestation and converting rain forests and other lands to grow crops or pasture. Such changes do not occur in the U.S., which has seen an increase in the total acreage of forested land over the last several decades even while total agricultural production has increased. Your readers need to hear both sides of this issue.