Merrissa Underwood probably didn’t intend to pick a fight with Montana cowboys. But after she was crowned Miss Montana in September, Underwood’s social media posts encouraging folks to switch to a plant-based diet were… let’s say, not well received.
On Sept. 20, just four days after being named Miss Montana USA, Underwood Tweeted: “Today we marched the streets of Bozeman in the pouring rain to stand in solidarity for climate action! It is vital to take a stand and do everything we can individually to battle climate change!”
Today we marched the streets of Bozeman in the pouring rain to stand in solidarity for climate action! It is vital to take a stand and do everything we can individually to battle climate change! I recently removed… https://t.co/FjlXjP7ZON— Merissa Underwood (@RealMissMTusa) September 20, 2019
It was an Instagram post on Oct. 21, however, that most rankled the state’s cattle producers. Underwood shared a meme with the statement, "Animal Agriculture is the most destructive industry facing our planet today." Ummm… no, Merrissa, not even close.
The meme shows statistics on climate change, water use, deforestation, species extinction, fisheries and waste, taken from the anti-beef documentary “Cowspiracy.” Don’t look there for accurate information.
The Montana Stockgrowers Association responded with an open letter to Underwood, stating the group appreciate her passion, but want to correct what the organization calls misleading and inaccurate information.
Ms. Underwood, We recently saw your Instagram Stories on your thoughts on climate change and animal agriculture. As @missmtusa we think it’s vital to use your platform to represent Montana and the things that are important to our beloved state. Agriculture and the cattle industry are some of those things. Montana’s #1 industry is agriculture and we are proud to raise some of the best, most sustainable beef in the world. Ranchers care deeply for the animals they raise and the environment they raise them in. There’s a saying between ranchers, “If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.” This is our passion. While we appreciate your passion, we are disappointed in the misleading and inaccurate information you shared and wanted to share some facts about the beef industry that might help educate you and others. Swipe through these images to see the rest of our response⏩ Please like and share this message so we can continue to educate others! **EDIT: In our post we stated 91% of farmers and ranches are family owned and operated, the actual number is 96%!**
That Underwood wandered out of her lane with posts about cows and climate change is not uncommon in today’s society. Celebrities and wannabe celebrities feel obliged to comment on a host of issues they know little about, and cow gas seems to have floated to the top of their list.
Following the response to her original posts, Underwood said on social media she wants to have an open conversation about agriculture and would be willing to tour a ranch.
It’s rapidly becoming more important to respond to beef critics. Here’s a few talking points:
- About two-thirds of all agricultural land in the world is marginal, meaning either the soil or water availability can’t support growing crops. Such land is used to raise livestock that convert cellulose-containing feedstuffs into animal-source foods.
- According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, all activity consuming fossil fuels – transportation, power production, etc. – combined are responsible for 80% of all U.S. greenhouse gas production. All of livestock and feed production in the U.S. combined represent 3.9% of U.S. greenhouse gases.
- American farmers are by far the world’s most efficient at producing food and fiber. For instance, India requires 15 to 20 cows to produce the same amount of milk as one cow in the U.S. American cattlemen produce as much beef today as they did in the mid-1970s with one-third fewer cows.