WeWork Needs More Cowboys!

Despite amazing advancements in technology, society’s understanding of both meat and cowboys is in rapid decline. This week provided two utterly forehead-slapping examples.

We’ll start with the very-public insult of cowboys. The University of Wyoming announced a new slogan – “The world needs more cowboys” – which would have gone relatively unnoticed if not for a professor who was offended. Christine Porter objected to the slogan as racist, sexist and counterproductive to recruiting out-of-state students.

Maybe. One can make the case that Porter at least acknowledges the word cowboy conjures up some stereotypical images in the minds of some. However, Porter failed to anticipate the backlash from cowboys and cowgirls her comments would have. A bunch of folks took to Facebook and “cowboy Twitter” with some not-so-nice comments and suggestions where the professor should move. Personally, our response to the whole slogan kerfuffle is – “Seriously? This is what you want to argue about? It’s Wyoming! It’s the cowboy state!”

My opinion is certainly influenced by this week’s second face-planting example, which is from a company that is in dire need of more cowboys.

WeWork Cos. has just told its 6,000 global employees they will no longer be able to expense meals that include meat.

Let that sink in for a moment…

If you work for WeWork, meat is a permanent no-no, at least while you’re on the job.

As you have probably guessed by now, that corporate order is what the company’s management team believes is the best way to “save the environment.”

WeWork is one of those techy startups that now has a billionaire CEO – co-founder Miguel McKelvey. WeWork launched in 2010 to provide shared workspaces, technology startup subculture communities, and services for entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups, small businesses and large enterprises. The company is worth $20 billion.

I’m sure the majority of the 6,000 employees are well-educated and well-meaning. I’m also comfortable guessing most of them couldn’t point to the end of a cow that delivers the moo.

Yet, here we are watching as this high-profile CEO spews anti-livestock propaganda, as in: “New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact, even more than switching to a hybrid car.”

McKelvey doesn’t, however, cite the “new research.” Indeed, quotes like McKelvey’s have been circulating for more than a decade – since the UN’s often-debunked report claiming livestock were responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation. The author of that report later said the calculations were in error, but, of course, the cows were already out of the barn, as it were.

And here’s where McKelvey would do well to hire a few cowboys for his global empire. Cows, you see, actually have one of the lowest carbon footprints – wait, there are sources coming for such assertions – according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which says cows are responsible for 4.2% of GHG emissions, far lower than the 27% from transportation.

Or, better yet, let’s let an air quality expert explain it. University of California/Davis professor Frank Mitloehner published a paper titled "Livestock's Contributions to Climate Change: Facts and Fiction," that shows food animals are minor contributors to U.S. and global GHG emissions.

Further, as Mitloehner describes, technology and efficiency are improving the beef and dairy industries. In 1950, for instance, the U.S. had 22 million dairy cows, and just 9 million by 2015. Milk production over that time increased 79%. For beef, the number of cattle have been reduced from 140 million in 1970, to about 90 million by 2015, a 36% reduction in numbers, all while producing the same amount of beef.

Given those records of efficiency, yeah, WeWork and the rest of the world could use a few more cowboys.