As 20,000 to 25,000 world leaders and others interested in climate change descend to Glasgow, Scotland for the 26th annual United Nations ‘Conference of the Parties’ – COP26 – the carbon footprint of the food served to them will literally be on the menu.
This is because the United States is on track to export more beef than ever, according to my analysis of government data.
The value of these exports has increased by more than 70% since 2016, when the Paris Climate Agreement was born out of COP21. That’s more than three times the rate of all U.S. exports, which grew 19.14% during that time.
One of the truisms of globalization is that millions and millions of people around the world can now afford a lot that they could not before. More and more than 7 billion people in the world can afford air conditioning. And cars. And air travel, including annual conferences like the two-week Glasgow event.
The list includes even simpler things, more vital things. Clean water, better shoes and other clothing, and health care, including vaccinations.
More and more people around the world can now afford a diet that is higher in protein. That, of course, can mean more beef.
With authoritarianism far from over in the world, the tenuous link between political freedom and economic freedom cannot and should not be overlooked.
But while cars, planes and air conditioning all contribute to global warming, livestock are believed to account for up to 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. It turns out that all that grazing on the grass causes cows to burp. A lot. Release of methane into the atmosphere.
As automakers and consumers around the world quickly turn to electric vehicles, which will have a profound impact on North American trade, particularly between the United States and Mexico, and while in the industry clothing, there is an emerging effort to reuse clothing, it is less clear what changes are expected or likely in the global livestock industry.
When all forces are combined, global temperatures rise and severe weather incidents accelerate, multiply and become increasingly costly and deadly.
Thus, this year, the menus of COP26 will allow those armed with forks, knives and the best of intentions, to know the impact of what they eat.
However, very little or none of that beef will come from the United States, as over 85% of the food at the top of Glasgow, including fruits, vegetables and grains, will be sourced locally. It is about trying not only to talk but to walk.
In general, in fact, the UK is not a particularly important customer of the US beef industry. The United States’ seventh largest trading partner overall, it ranks 46th for frozen beef exports and 48th for fresh or chilled beef. It has, of course, easy access to beef from the European Union.
Nevertheless, the United States is the world’s largest producer of beef and the second largest exporter after Brazil. (We Americans eat more of our own.)
With US beef exports likely to exceed $ 8.7 billion this year, many recipient countries – nearly half of the world’s countries, in fact.
Exports of fresh or chilled beef exceeded $ 3 billion for the first time through August, the most recent data available from the US Census Bureau. Frozen beef exports exceeded $ 2.8 billion, an increase of 72.45% in value from this period in 2016. The increase in fresh beef exports since 2016 is similar to 78.76% .
So while the US beef industry, and US agriculture in general, is as efficient and productive as any in the world, our size makes our beef industry a target. Which almost certainly won’t do much to bridge the political divide.
Those most affected by climate change are often from coastal states, where rising seas pose a more immediate threat.
Much of that red meat comes from so-called “red states,” the central states of the United States, those who tend to vote Republican. Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Iowa account for just under two-thirds of all fresh beef exports this year. Add Colorado’s “purple state” and you’re over 80%.
When it comes to frozen beef, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Utah account for just under half of all exports by value, about two-thirds if you add the purple states of Colorado and Florida.
A fair question is, is it fair to ask people in other parts of the world to forgo the beef Americans have enjoyed for decades? While many, myself included, like to portray globalization as a force helping to lift millions of people out of abject poverty at a faster rate than at any time in human history, it is helping all kinds. of people.
While some of the countries where US frozen beef exports have grown the fastest, such as Iraq, Ethiopia, Malta, Ukraine, Tunisia, Guyana, Honduras, Costa Rica, l ‘Ecuador, Indonesia and Malaysia, they are not the big buyers.
Over 80% of US frozen beef exports go to just five countries: South Korea, China, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. China is the closest thing to a developing country in this group, and that’s an increasingly difficult argument to make when you talk about the world’s second-largest economy.
With fresh or chilled beef, the United States sends more than 85% of its exports to Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Canada and Taiwan. Again, only five countries and not the poorest in the world.
As these delegates in Glasgow for COP26 take fork and knife and with the best of intentions, the international business community will have to wait and see how to continue to advance the well-being of the world’s people while slowing the rising tide of change. climate.