Earth Day 2009

Earth Day 2009

Today is Earth Day 2009. On this 39th annual commemoration of ecological concern, we may be about to reduce one major source of air pollution and global warming: cow flatulence.

Factory breeding of beef cattle and vast dairy herds produce tons of atmospheric methane or CH4 (not Carbon Dioxide or CO2, as claimed by master chemist and House Minority Leader John Boehner). Methane is a major “greenhouse gas” that contributes to global warming.

Funny? Yes. A joke? No.

Enteric fermentation in the cow’s unique innards produces copious methane, and the planet has about 1.5 billion cattle. Each cow is the size of your car, but has no emission controls. America also has lots of cow lots, where the unnatural grain diet may produce even more cow farts.

More methane in the atmosphere means more global warming. What to do?

We could eat less meat, lowering the demand for beef, which would reduce the size of beef herds, improve human health, save energy and reduce your grocery bill. Trouble is, Americans eat lots more meat than we used to, and we have spread this habit around the world.

We could add fish oil to cattle feed, which would reduce methane output. Of course this would drive up food costs and reduce our dwindling fish supply.

Or we could feed cows garlic.

More specifically, livestock feed laced with Allicin (diallyl thiosulphinate), a chemical found in garlic that not only  has antibiotic and anti-fungal properties but acts as bovine  Beano®. Britain’s Neem Biotech Ltd. has developed an industrial Allicin-extraction process (patent # US7179632) and markets an animal-strength product as mootralTM

Tell Al Gore to take the rest of Earth Day off.


Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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8 Responses to “Earth Day 2009”

  1. Beth Partin Says:

    Would seeding landfills with garlic work to reduce their methane, too?

    I wonder if the beef would taste like garlic. That might be yummy.

  2. Mike Licht Says:

    Beth Partin wrote: I wonder if the beef would taste like garlic.

    Alas, no … but maybe they could work on that. Some fresh-ground black pepper wouldn’t be bad, either.

  3. Lori Says:

    hah! Garlic breath, too

  4. Mike Licht Says:

    Lori wrote: hah! Garlic breath, too

    Beats cow fart breath any day.

    (Actually, I think Allicin is odorless).

  5. Nikolas Says:

    If you’ve ever been near a factory farm or a slaughterhouse you’ll never forget the smell. Its not just cow flatulence, its also their dung. Years ago I stopped eating beef but I’ve never stopped eating garlic.

  6. Trish Says:

    Mmmm, sounds good, think I’ll go have a great big juicy steak, prepared on my gas grill! And I promise to add garlic butter to it.

  7. Mike Licht Says:

    Trish wrote: I’ll go have a great big juicy steak, prepared on my gas grill!

    A grill powered by reclaimed agricultural methane, perhaps?

  8. Mike Licht Says:

    Nikolas: Methane is also generated by the huge waste heaps and lagoons of factory farms. In theory this waste can be recycled; in practice there is no market.

    Don’t confuse bad odors with pullution, as authorities in China do. There are many odorless (and perhaps even pleasant-smelling) substances tainting our air, earth, and water.

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