Cows are not the new coal — here’s why

Methane is the main contributor of greenhouse gas emissions from beef cattle and is largely produced from belching that naturally occurs as cattle digest feed. Other emissions occur during manure excretion and storage.

Cattle are part of a natural biogenic carbon cycle and they recycle carbon to the atmosphere that was and will again be absorbed by plants. Methane enters atmosphere, where it is transformed into carbon dioxide which is used by plants to produce carbohydrates, and cellulose.

If the global cattle population stays constant, no additional methane would enter the atmosphere within a given period.

The scientific models that aim to estimate the global warming potential of methane compare emissions at the point of emission but don’t account for the flow of carbon as a part of this natural carbon cycle. Therefore, we are likely overestimating the global warming potential of methane derived from cattle.

Additionally animal agriculture deserves our support because the meat and milk that cattle produce are nutrient-dense foods high in protein and key micronutrients such as B-vitamins, iron, and calcium.

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