The US is the world’s largest producer and consumer of beef with sales of approximately $67 billion in 2018. Although many savor beef, in developed countries consumption often exceeds dietary guidelines. Beef production is a big business and in the US, this amounts to about 790 million acres or over 40% of the US total land area. Beef cattle are ruminants, which means they digest their food by enteric (intestinal) fermentation and this produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Beef animals produce about 50 times more greenhouse gas emissions per ounce of protein than wheat and 6 times more than pork. When temperatures rise, cattle consume more water, lose their appetites, become less fertile, and can even die. Scientists estimate heat stress costs the US beef industry about $370 million per year. Droughts, which are expected to increase in coming years, have already affected the availability, price, and quality of pasture, harvested forages, and grains, putting more stress on beef production. Cooling systems and changes in diets can reduce the impact of climate change on beef animals and their impact on the climate, respectively.
Yields of major staple crops like wheat and rice are being hurt by increasing temperatures. Wine grape production is moving to cooler climes causing changes in the character of some of our favorites. The flavors and health benefits of teas, the size of potatoes, the sting of a hot pepper, where fish call home in the oceans, and a future decline in protein in vegetables—it’s all changing.
Our food database shows the ingredients affected by a changing climate.
To learn what farmers, scientists, and many others are doing to keep the menu stocked, see Stewardship of the Land and Our Changing Menu: Climate Change and the Foods We Love and Need. You have a role, too!
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This food ingredient database is in its early phase and we will strive to expand it on an ongoing basis so that everyone is aware of how climate change is affecting the foods we love and need.