New York City Mayor Eric Adams is at it again, claiming to be a nutritionist for 8.4 million citizens. The same guy who wanted to take away kids’ chocolate milk now wants to limit beef and dairy for the good “of emissions.” New York State farmers just might have a beef with this kind of rhetoric.
Just before Earth Day, on April 17, Adams laid out his edict at the city’s Health & Hospitals Culinary Center in Brooklyn: “Food is the third biggest source of our city’s emissions right after buildings and transportation. But all food is not created equal. The vast majority of food that is contributing to our emission crises lies in meat and dairy products.”
Ouch! Can the dairy state feel that?
He cited that “buildings, transportation and food represent New York City’s top three sources of greenhouse gas emissions” in an extensive press release (at nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/263-23/mayor-adams-commits-reducing-city-s-food-based-emissions-33-percent-2030-after-releasing#/0).
Adams must be feeling the heat from students taking on this issue in their statewide Envirothon competition. He might want to take another look at the 2022 New York State Climate Action Council Scoping Plan which cites 32% of emissions come from buildings, 28% from transportation, 13% from electricity generation and 12% from the waste sector. Only 6% of statewide emissions (NYS Climate Action Council, 2022, p. 271) are attributed to animal agriculture.
Data and nutrition aside, the mayor vowed “to reduce emissions tied to city food procurements by 33% by 2030,” unveiling data that show that in NYC, food consumption rivals transportation as a source of planet-warming gases.
“It is easy to talk about emissions that are coming from vehicles and how it impacts our carbon footprint. It is easy to talk about the emissions that’s coming from buildings and how it impacts our environment, but we now have to talk about beef,” said the “nutritionist” mayor.
The New York Times included these opinions in their reporting that might bristle a New York beef farmer: “If you really want to make a difference, there are two main things you do for food, one of which is you try to reduce the amount of beef,” said Richard Larrick, a professor of management at Duke University. “To have 20 grams of protein from beef – that’s kind of a meal’s serving of protein – is like burning a gallon of gasoline.”
The New York Times also cited Timothy Searchinger, a senior research scholar at Princeton University’s Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment, who said that beef is so carbon-intensive because it uses so much land that might otherwise host forests that store carbon.
“Beef, for example, in the American diet is like 3% of calories and like half of our land use,” said Searchinger. “So anything that reduces beef in particular has huge greenhouse gas benefits.”
Adams continued, “New York City is leading the world when it comes to combating climate change because we’re using every option on the menu in our fight – and that includes changing our menus too.”
With attention from media outlets, the Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice published a new chart in the city’s annual greenhouse gas inventory that publicly tracks the carbon footprint created by household food consumption, primarily generated by meat and dairy products.
Gothamist.com reporter Elizabeth Kim wrote, “The new analysis is a spin on the emissions data that comes standard with the annual inventory. It was made through a partnership with American Express, C40 Cities and EcoData lab.”
Possibly enhancing the bottom line for NYS vegetable farmers and facing the reality that New York “imports” over 70% of its food, the mayor announced, “This new emissions report shows us that plant-powered food isn’t just good for our physical and mental health, but good for the planet as well. We’ve already made great strides in reducing our food emissions by leading with plant-based meals in our public hospitals and introducing Plant-Powered Fridays in our public schools. The way we eat impacts everything, and now we’re going to do more to impact everything for the better.”
“It’s easy for Mayor Adams to lob attacks at beef, but the reality is that greenhouse gas emissions from beef cattle represent only 2% of emissions in the United States,” said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane in a Fox News Digital interview. “In fact, all of agriculture accounts for approximately 11% of U.S. emissions, and that includes everything in the mayor’s vegan diet.”
Apparently Adams doesn’t converse much with New York Ag Commissioner Richard Ball, who kicked off Beef Month by announcing a new statewide program: “I’m proud to celebrate Beef Month in New York State with the launch of the New York Beef Passport. This initiative will connect our consumers with beef producers in every corner of our state while helping them to support local small businesses.”
The NYS Department of Ag & Markets works hard to promote New York’s beef industry and connect its nearly 12,800 cattle farms to new markets. Additionally, the department supports beef producers across the state through a variety of programs, like the Farm-to-School program, which helps connect producers with local schools, and Nourish NY, which brings Empire State foods to those in need through a network of emergency food providers.
Additionally, the beef industry works with the NYS Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) program and is part of the NYS Grown & Certified program.
Assemblymember Donna Lupardo’s office didn’t take a strong stance either way on the topic: “As the chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, Assemblywoman Lupardo is actively promoting dairy and livestock and remains committed to those industries. The budget for agriculture this year reflects that. They actually created a new pro-livestock program at Cornell to help promote these industries.
“The Assemblywoman also remains committed to helping farmers with capturing methane emissions and using it for energy purposes; however, that seems to be facing strong headwinds.” The topic appears to be a one step forward, one step back dance.
To add intrigue to the mayor’s theatre, Ball, State Sen. Michelle Hinchey and the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation just announced a grant opportunity totaling $5 million for projects to expand existing or establish new meat processing facilities. The Meat Processing Expansion Grant Program aims to address the nationwide shortage of affordable meat available to consumers, increase capacity of New York’s processing facilities and support agribusinesses.
Bianca Coppola, senior advisor and communications director for Hinchey, addressed the mayor’s initiative in a statement: “Since becoming the Agriculture and Food Chair in 2021, Senator Hinchey has been committed to strengthening New York’s agriculture sector and supporting the businesses behind it. With a homegrown food supply as abundant as New York’s, the senator is working to ensure that we are our own biggest client, which will help cut down on harmful emissions from out-of-state and international transportation and will expand markets for our local farmers.
“Our farmers are part of the solution to the climate crisis, and we must make sure they have the tools and the funding they need to stay in business. That’s why the senator has championed legislation (S.3125) setting first-ever purchasing threshold goals for state agencies to purchase New York food and why, in the budget this year, we expanded farm-to-school procurement thresholds from $100,000 to $150,000 so that school districts can more easily purchase food directly from New York farmers.”
This polarizing issue Mayor Adams brings to the citizens of New York City and New York farmers may well provide a catalyst to throw on a pair of jeans, come out to the farm and learn about biological systems that include ruminants mixed with a wide array of fruits, vegetables and people working the land for the resilience of New York State and the next generations.
by Troy Bishopp