Column #233 February 7, 2020
The story about cows causing global warming by belching methane gas is just one of the lies being told by the activists that pound the don't-eat-meat drum. The list of detractors also includes the plant-based “imitation meat” companies. To me, other than their message being a slower death, their malicious and ignorant messages are just like Jim Jones telling his followers to “drink the cool aid.”
Carbon is a natural element on Earth and elsewhere in the universe. Earth’s carbon load has been the same since the Earth formed. Over time, the carbon atoms relocated and recombined over and over again. This constant shifting resulted in major changes to the Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, and surface.
The Earth started as a ball of hot gases, then, after the Earth cooled, a solid crust developed as well as a primitive atmosphere. More carbon dioxide (CO2) was released to the atmosphere through volcanic eruptions. Then biological activities began developing, evolving, and expanding. As biological production exploded over the last billion years, much of the atmospheric CO2 was absorbed by plants and animals and buried in ocean sediments.1
Before man had much of a presence, the sequestering of carbon in plants, soils, and animals cycled back and forth. Carbon was released as vegetation rotted and decayed, animals died, swamplands released marsh gases, volcanoes erupted, and termites ate wood and ruminants ate grasses and leaves. Then the regrowth of animals and plants would take up that CO2 and some would be sequestered back into the soil. This is where the world was before fossil fuels were being used for energy. As fossil fuels were exploited and forests and prairies were cleared to grow crops, carbon gasses were released into the atmosphere faster than it was being sequestered. (Yes, fallow crop land releases carbon gases.)
Bottom line, trees, plants, soil, oceans, and even animals absorb and prevent many of the greenhouse gases from entering Earth’s atmosphere. The trees and plants take in the gases and store some of it in the soils. Animals (and people) also store some carbon within themselves.2
It is well established that methane gas is a greenhouse gas that’s 28 times more potent at trapping heat than CO2. However, methane doesn’t stick around very long in the atmosphere. Over the course of ten years or so the methane emitted from a cow will be transformed by photochemical reactions to CO2. That CO2 is then taken up by plants and the cycle repeats.3
This means that if the cattle inventory stays constant over a ten-year time frame, the quantity of methane in the atmosphere from cattle will not decrease nor increase. Our domestic cattle inventory peaked in 1975 at about 131 million head. It’s now 94.8 million. The worldwide cattle inventory reached 1.04 billion head in 1975 and is now 998 million. Essentially that’s unchanged in 45 years. So, while the Earth’s temperature increased 1.7°F over the past 40 years, it’s not possible for cattle to have played a role in the increase in atmospheric methane.4
Around 1800 or so it’s estimated that there were about 75 million head of buffalo roaming the plains and prairies. Between 1830 and 1880 most of the buffalo died (mostly from diseases and some from hunting). In 1840 the domestic cattle inventory was 15 million head. So the total of large ruminants at that time was maybe 90 million head. By 1880 the cattle inventory was 40 million head and the buffalo herd was down to less than 500 individuals. According to the Atmospheric Methane concentration data, while the number of large ruminants in the USA decreased in number between 1830 and 1880, the methane atmospheric concentrations went UP! Furthermore, compared to 200 years ago, today the quantity of methane belched up by ruminants may be about the same as it was in 1800. That would mean it’s the same as it was for literally tens of thousands of years when the buffalo herds were huge.5 6 7
Animal life requires the greenleaf at the bottom of the food chain for protein, fat, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and many other essential compounds including Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) in equal balance with Omega-6 EFAs. In addition it’s the green leaves of plants that take in CO2. This is why the leaves of trees, perennial and annual plants, and algae are so important in the Earth’s carbon cycle as well as a healthy animal kingdom.
The best nutrition sources for people are the green leafy vegetables and animals that have the green leafy plant material at the bottom of their food chains. Nuts, seeds, grain, fruit, stems, and roots have never provided the full spectrum of nutrients in the density and balance that is available from green leaves. In addition, the vast majority of plants in the world are inedible because of their natural protective toxins. In my view that makes grass-fed meat, Omega-3 meat, and wild-caught seafood the best and safest nutrient sources for humans.8
Every day the media and misguided activists are bombarding us with horrifying stories about how cattle are destroying the planet with their methane emissions. They’re also saying that meat is bad for our health while ignoring the fact that meat is our most complete and best balanced food. Then they demand that we stop eating meat and eat more plant-based foods of which, in all likelihood, the smallest portion of their vegetarian diet will be green leafy vegetables. Even universities are so dumb they are banning meat on campus! Will punitive anti-meat laws be far behind?
The activists are dead wrong when they say atmospheric methane is increasing because it’s being belched up by cattle. And their advise about eating plant-based foods is just as wrong. In effect, they are convincing hundreds of millions of gullible followers to drink their cool aid of ignorance. Eventually that Kool-Aid will ramp up the incidences of chronic diseases and healthcare costs. It will lower the immunity of millions if not billions of people when they need it most for fending off pandemics. And all their efforts in that regard won’t stop global warming. Yet the pastures that cattle graze are continuously taking in CO2 and sequestering some of it in the soil which prevents global warming.
The damning message that’s coming from the misguided, media-based, politically correct mob will cause their believers to forever pay a heavy price.
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
Don’t miss these links for additional reading:
1. Carbon and CO2 on Earth – Things Have Changed! From University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center
2. Can Soil Help Combat Climate Change? by Renee Cho from State of the Planet Columbia University
3. Separating Fact from Fiction on Farting Cows by Amada Radke from Beef Magazine
4. Cattle Inventory by Rob Cook from Beef 2 Live
5. Reinterpreting the 1882 Bison Population Collapse by Sierra Dawn Stoneberg Holt
pdf on file
6. Cattle -Number Shown by the Census on Specified Dates by Agricultural Marketing Service, for the United States
7. Methane’s Role In Climate Change by Jeff Johnson from Chemical Engineering News
8. Plants vs. Plant Eaters by Ted Slanker
Six Meat-Free Claims about Farming That the Industry Wants to Set the Record Straight On by Andrew Forgrave Rural Affairs Editor from North Wales Live
The Beef with Regenerative Grazing by Tia Schwab from Stone Pier Press
Don’t Blame Cattle – It’s Humans Who Caused Methane Levels to Skyrocket from Cornell University
REALLY Want to Help Mother Nature? Don’t Drive Electric Cars, Ignore Paper Bags & Forget about Organic Food from RT News an autonomous, non-profit organization that is publicly financed from the budget of the Russian Federation
The Greenhouse Gas Impacts of Converting Food Production in England and Wales to Organic Methods by Laurence G. Smith, et al. from Nature Communications
Can Eating Cows Save the Planet? by Doug Gurian-Sherman, PhD from Food Revolution Network