Yes, I have seen the video released by a fast food shop that creates a false narrative. I am going to choose not to share their name because I have witnessed some of my friends in agriculture do more toward spreading their message in the last week than money could buy.
Instead I am going to thank them for asking people to truly investigate what greenhouse gases are, where they come from and why they exist. And finally discuss how the cow is the one creation that works hard at keeping them all in balance.
First off, let's just apply a little common sense to the situation. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, supply plants with nutrition. So the more plants we have, the more plant food we need. The more cattle, or grazing animals we have, the more plants are required to feed those animals. The more animals we have, the more manure we generate, which is the best source of plant food around. It is absolutely unbelievable to me that we need to give a third-grade science lesson to the global consumers of today but here we are.
Beyond all of that, I received a call from Dean Carroll, of Missouri, that jogged my memory. Unfortunately fear marketeers have hijacked components of nature as being dangerous such as greenhouse gases and try to blame humans for being the cause. Carroll reminded me that we have actually had a government subsidy paid to increase methane production in the United States. How many landowners have been a part of the program to develop wetlands?
Let's take a quick look at what the unreported science says about wetlands. From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
“Wetland methane (CH4) emissions are the largest natural source in the global CH4 budget, contributing to roughly one-third of total natural and anthropogenic emissions. As the second most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas in the atmosphere after CO2, CH4 is strongly associated with climate feedbacks. However, due to the paucity of data, wetland CH4 feedbacks were not fully assessed in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report.
The role of wetland CH4 emissions, however, may play an increasingly larger role in future atmospheric growth of methane because of the large stocks of mineral and organic carbon stored under anaerobic conditions in both boreal and tropical regions. Paleoclimatological and contemporary observations of the climate sensitivity of wetland methane emissions suggest the potential for a large feedback, but there remains large uncertainty in quantifying the actual range of the response.”
So, back to cows. The true global expert on the issue is Frank Mitloehner from the University of California-Davis. At the Alltech virtual conference earlier this year, he actually walked through the science of greenhouse gases and what the world needs to know.
“Methane is very different. It does not have a lifespan of 1,000 years; it has a lifespan of 10 years. So, after a decade, it's gone. There's a process—and that really makes methane very different from the other gases—there's a process that destroys methane, and that's called hydroxy-oxidation.”
Well, that's really where the majority of the problem resides. According to the IPCC—the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change—developing countries such as India emit about 70 to 80% of global greenhouse gases associated with livestock. For example, in India, there are three times more cattle than in the U.S., and they don't even eat them.
At the end of the day there is no doubt that the climate is changing. Mitloehner has the science to prove that cows are a net benefit to the environment but who wants to hear that? In fact, as I hear myself say that, I realize that I need to find a way to share this information in a way that people who hear it will want to get more information. That, my friends, continues to be the problem, I am trying to explain how to correct a video that was made using kids and fun graphics by using a science report. I reckon we are the slow learners in this system but we will have to get better and in a hurry.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.