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Beef + Lamb New Zealand respond to meat lobby financing academic research claims

Thursday 16 Feb 23 10:30am

Beef + Lamb New Zealand respond to a Carbon News story about its support for a tour of New Zealand by US academic Dr Frank Mitloehner who the New York Times has reported receives millions of dollars in funding from the meat industry in the United States.

Dear Editor, 


We were pleased to see Carbon News highlighting the visit by Dr Frank Mitloehner that Beef + Lamb New Zealand is supporting, however there were a number of inaccuracies that we felt was important to set the record straight on.

Dr Mitloehner is visiting New Zealand to speak on improving sustainability in animal agriculture – including reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector – and diving into California’s approach where the state has ambitious methane reduction targets and is making good progress towards meeting goals.


Dr Mitloehner is working with farmers on reducing their emissions and encouraging them to use new technologies where they are available. The trust he has built among producers and the agriculture sector allows him to have productive conversations that will lead to real reductions. Some technologies are already available in California, given their different farming systems, and farmers are making good progress using them. 


A recent report from the CLEAR Center he co-authored emphasised that California dairy farmers will need to continue to reduce their methane emissions to reach the State’s goals and there are opportunities to do that: New Report: California is Pioneering a Pathway to Significant Dairy Methane Reduction | CLEAR Center (


 Here is a link to an earlier report by the State of California in 2021 on progress on reducing their agriculture emissions: Assessing California’s Climate Policies—Agriculture.  We understand since this report was released, further research has indicated the programmes in place in California have been more successful than expected.  


CLEAR and Dr Mitloehner have a high output of useful research on agricultural GHG mitigation and Dr Mitloehner leads work investigating ways to reduce emissions. 


Part of Dr Mitloehner’s work is also building understanding of methane’s impact on the climate.


We were disappointed that Dr Mitloehner’s lecture on the science behind methane’s impact on warming was portrayed in your article as being contradictory to the scientific consensus. This assertion is incorrect. The IPCC (pg 927/8 Chapter 7) recognises that the short lived nature of methane means that its emissions do not need to reach zero.  


This is also the scientific basis for New Zealand having a split gas target for methane in the Zero Carbon Act. 


The GWP* metric is acknowledged by the IPCC as more accurately quantifying the warming effect of short-lived gases. It isn't a plot to give livestock agriculture a free ride. The underlying issue is the accurate measure of methane's warming. 


You can calculate this using the equations of atmospheric physics - or much more simply, by using an accurate metric.


The opposition to GWP* - largely from Europe - comes not from contesting the science, but from (incorrect) assumptions about how it would be used in policy. That is where the 'free ride for farmers' claim comes from.


Tackling agricultural emissions is an important issue and we see agriculture as a potential solution to climate change in its ability to both reduce emissions and sequester carbon through farming practices and incorporating forestry into our systems.


Working with international partners on these issues is a key part of our strategy as it allows us to leverage funding and learn from others. California is already making great strides, partly though Dr Mitloehner’s research and outreach, and understanding their policies and approaches can inform similar conversations in New Zealand.


There has been very little consideration here of policies and measures in other countries, so the visit will fill a gap. 


Let's see how other regions are approaching the reduction of agricultural methane and see what we can learn from it.


As methane emissions are a significant issue for the sector, it is essential that policy decisions are made with the most up to date science and this public lecture aims to inform and educate policy makers. 


Concerns about funding for Dr Mitloehner’s and the CLEAR Centre’s work were raised by Greenpeace last year and then appeared in the New York Times. These were comprehensively addressed by Dr Mitloehner in a response which can be read here. 


We believe it is crucial for industry bodies such as B+LNZ, scientists, and policy makers to work together on addressing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Dr Mitloehner's visit will make a useful contribution to this co-operative effort.



Dave Harrison, General Manager Policy, Beef + Lamb New Zealand 

Carbon News stands by its original story but we're happy to provide a right of reply that helps to clarity some of the complicated issues at play.



Related Topics: Agriculture


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