Why Americans aren’t eating as much beef

Americans are eating less beef than they did a decade ago, but environmental groups and cattle producers can’t seem to agree on why.

According to a study published by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on Wednesday, Americans’ beef consumption decreased by 19 percent between 2005 and 2014. During that time, people in the U.S. also stopped eating as much pork, chicken, shellfish and whole milk — but not at nearly the same rate of decline as with beef.

Read more: McDonalds invests in sustainable beef, expands mobile ordering

The NRDC also claims that, by eating less beef, Americans prevented the equivalent of 185 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses — namely, those produced by cattle production — from entering the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.

“Whether we realize it or not, Americans have been fighting greenhouse gas emissions with their forks,” said Sujatha Bergen, a policy specialist for the NRDC, reports The New York Times.

However, Bergen admitted that health concerns were probably the reason for the decline in beef consumption, as opposed to consumers’ concerns over the planet.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association seems to disagree with Bergen’s assessment. While they don’t dispute the NRDC’s statistics concerning beef consumption — the NRDC’s based their research on findings from the Agriculture Department — they say the drop in beef consumption can be attributed to less beef in the American market.

Between 2010 and 2013, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association claims they exported more beef than was imported during that time. What’s more, the organization also argue that droughts, higher beef prices (caused by higher feed prices) and Americans’ preference for chicken or pork, is to blame.

Meanwhile, the consumers themselves seem to agree with both the NRDC and the NCBA.

In a survey conducted by Mintel in January 2017, over a third of consumers cited price as the reason they…

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