October 17, 2022
US cattle trade group urges Google to rein in planned beef emissions feature
US-based National Cattlemen's Beef Association is urging Google to rein in a feature that would let users automatically see the emission levels of specific ingredients when looking up recipes, E & E news reported.
Such emission metrics, according to the trade group, don't adequately reflect the advantages beef has for the environment.
The issue is a proposed search function that would contrast the "average greenhouse gas impact" of potential ingredients using emissions data from the United Nations. It's a part of a larger range of sustainability initiatives Google has carried out recently, including a new Google Maps feature that highlights the most fuel-efficient route and an update to its office food programme to cut down on meat consumption.
Hema Budaraju, the director of Google Search, announced in a blog post last month that all English-speaking users would soon have access to the ingredient emissions feature. She also provided a sample search for a panang curry recipe, complete with an information box indicating that among the roughly a dozen possible ingredients, beef has the highest emissions per pound.
Don Schiefelbein, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said Google is using its billions of dollars in resources to target cattle producers and ignore the science that demonstrates beef's sustainability and value to the environment.
He said producing cattle preserves open space, reuses grass and forages, and offers consumers a lean protein source rich in vital nutrients.
Advocates for sustainable agriculture applauded the tech giant's initiatives to educate consumers about the emissions linked to their dietary choices.
Danielle Nierenberg, the president of the sustainable agriculture advocacy group Food Tank, said in reference to the association that what they're doing is confusing consumers.
She said they are a sizable lobby organisation that receives funding from their supporters to promote beef, regardless of the facts.
Jan Dutkiewicz, a visiting fellow in the Animal Law and Policy Program at Harvard Law School, said foregrounding the environmental impact of various everyday goods as people are Googling them strikes him as on balance a good idea.
He said this is not an anti-beef search function, adding that he doesn't understand why people shouldn't have quick access to comparative data on how the foods they consume affect them.
While Nierenberg acknowledged that significant systemic changes are required to reduce agriculture emissions, she thinks more information is a good thing.
- E & E News