Mitigation of the U.S. agrifood sector's contribution to human and planetary health: a case study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Frontiers in nutrition






agrifood; beef; climate change; communication; policy; political will


The relationship of the United States (U.S.) agrifood sector to climate change is bidirectional; cattle production for beef consumption generates methane and nitrous oxide, both of which are potent greenhouse gases (GHGs). These gases contribute to global warming which in turn increase the frequency and strength of adverse catastrophic events, which compromise the food supply. Increased GHGs also affect crop yields and the micronutrient content of crops, which adversely affect the prevalence of food and nutrition insecurity, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Because the U.S. is a major contributor to global warming, we have a special responsibility to reduce our contribution to the generation of GHGs. The dilemma is that beef is a highly nutritious and desirable food, with excess consumption in the U.S. and under consumption in other parts of the world, but a desirable source of nutrients in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Reductions in fossil fuels have been a major focus of concern, and the agrifood system has been largely ignored. Policy changes to reduce beef consumption have been resisted at the highest levels of government. Furthermore, shifts to more plant-based diets have been contentious. Successful reductions in beef consumption will require individual, institutional, municipal, and state initiatives. Building the political will for change will require a compelling communication campaign that emphasizes the unsustainable contribution of beef consumption to climate change and land and water use.


Prevention and Community Health