Earth Day Update: Meat, Methane, Laughing Gas

Earth Day Update: Meat, Methane, Laughing Gas 

A 2006 UN study claimed meat production is responsible for creating more greenhouse gas emissions than the exhaust of all cars, SUVs, buses, planes and trucks combined. Methane and other greenhouse gases are produced by cow flatulence and burping.  

If you need to discuss it in polite company, the process that makes cows gassy is called “enteric fermentation.”  Cow burps are “ruminant eructation.” 

A 2009 study estimated that half of all greenhouse gases are generated by livestock.  Investigators have been collecting cow gas emissions (methane and nitrous oxide) in huge plastic containers for analysis. People concerned about Global Warming have urged a reduction in meat eating  in order to reduce the size of gassy cattle herds. 

 Recent scrutiny cast doubt on the initial UN study, and the UN has admitted procedural flaws. Scientists recalculated, and now estimate that meat production accounts for a much lower percentage of greenhouse gases. This means you cannot save the world by switching from veal to veggies. While this diet may have personal health benefits, it will have little effect on the amount of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere. 

Have you noticed teenagers sniffing cow pies? Cattle poop emits nitrous oxide (laughing gas). When released in the atmosphere, it is another potent greenhouse gas, increasing Global Warming. Paradoxically, a recent study suggests that grazing cattle actually reduces the amount of nitrous oxide emissions. Why? Microbes in ungrazed grassland soil emit even more nitrous oxide than cattle burps. 

Happy Earth Day. 


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

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

Add to: Facebook | Digg | | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “Earth Day Update: Meat, Methane, Laughing Gas”

  1. Mike Licht Says:


    “Carnivorous Climate Skeptics in the Media,” James McWilliams, The Atlantic.

    “Have we got it right on meat and greenhouse gas emissions?” Tom Levitt,
    “Les végétariens n’aident pas à lutter contre le réchauffement climatique,” Jean-Yves Nau,

    “Klimaatimpact van vlees eten moet worden herbekeken,” De Standaard.

    “Faut-il réhabiliter les vaches ?” Anne Sengès,

    “Las vacas ya no contaminan tanto como el transporte,” Almudena Cayetano, EcoDiario

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: