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Want to make a dietary change to impact planetary health in a positive way? Respect the harvest by reducing food waste and giving to the food insecure. (Amanda Radke / Special to Agweek)

When eating steak, climate change isn't at stake

We can't eat our way out of climate change.

There, I said it. And I've repeated this almost daily in recent months since nearly every mainstream media outlet is linking eating meat to disastrous impacts on planetary health.

And statements like that couldn't be further from the truth.

In fact, I feel good eating beef knowing that nutritionally, I'm getting the best bang for my caloric buck. Imagine the carbon footprint of completely frivolous foods we fill our cupboards with — buckets of Halloween candy, bottles of wine or Christmas cookie platters come to mind.

Are these essentials to life or simply fun indulgences? And if we were to truly make dietary changes to impact planetary health in a positive way, wouldn't we remove the excess and junk foods instead of a whole food like beef?

This may seem like common sense, but this truth isn't so commonly accepted. Consumers today have been told over and over again that if they simply skipped eating meat for one meal or one day each week, they can travel, indulge and enjoy life without guilt.

For example, in a recent segment that pained me to watch, Oprah interviewed environmentalist Suzy Cameron Amis, author of "The OMD Plan." In the interview, Amis encourages folks to make at least one meal per day plant-based. She suggested that simply skipping meat for one meal each day, we'll conserve 200,000 gallons of water and eliminate the carbon equivalent of one road trip from Los Angeles to New York.

In addition to celebrities hyping up the plant-based trend to save planet Earth, even the oil companies have gotten in on the action. BP recently tweeted steps to reduce your carbon footprint. One of their suggestions? You guessed it. Eat less red meat.

This is highly ironic considering that transportation contributes nearly 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA. But I digress.

If I sound frustrated, it's because I am. The old saying, "A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth ties its shoe laces," rings true here. Those of us in animal agriculture have our work cut out for us if we are to combat these outright lies about eating meat and planet health.

One of our most valuable leaders in sharing the truth about cattle and climate is Frank Mitloehner, an air quality specialist from the University of California, Davis.

In a recent column for Business Insider, Mitloehner sets the record straight: "Many people continue to think avoiding meat as infrequently as once a week will make a significant difference to the climate. But according to one recent study, even if Americans eliminated all animal protein from their diets, they would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by only 2.6%

"According to our research at the University of California, Davis, if the practice of Meatless Monday were to be adopted by all Americans, we'd see a reduction of only 0.5%."

Again, we can't eat our way out of climate change. Turn off the lights, and use public transportation instead of driving as much as possible to reduce your carbon footprint.

Yet, if you are adamant about making a dietary change to impact the planet in a positive way — do this instead: Reduce your food waste!

A whopping 40% of food grown in the U.S. today goes uneaten and ends up in landfills. What a sad waste, especially when we consider that one in four children goes to bed hungry at night.

As we begin November, a month to give thanks, express gratitude for our blessings and celebrate the harvest, my challenge to you is reduce waste, donate excess to food pantries and help bridge the gap between over-abundance and the food insecure. We must respect the harvest, and I think being mindful of our purchases, consumption and giving this Thanksgiving and holiday season is a great place to start!