The Misconception That Eating Beef Causes Global Warming
Recently, the California climate change has become a hot topic. Year after year, lots of sunny days throughout the year means less rain in California. Californians are raising their awareness of the warm weather and the lack of water. A lot of media articles are focusing on the causes of and the solutions to deal with climate change.
An article 11 Foods You Didn’t Know Were Hurting the Planet says that the foods such as beef that you are eating daily actually “increase your carbon footprint,” and are “putting a serious damper on the planet”. The problems presented in the article were wrongheaded ideas. By only reducing our consumption of beef, we might either reduce our carbon footprint or contribute to saving our planet. Based on this article, we will not solve the problem, but will create more problems. The images presented in the article were not effective to illustrate the points that the author was trying to make, either.
“A cow releases between 70 and 120 kg of methane per year… the negative effect it has on the climate is 23 times higher than the effect of CO2.” This sounds shocking, right? This is a misconception about the environmental effects of beef. Methane from cattle can be reduced in several different ways. One, the fact is that raising beef cattle, especially on grass, is an environmental gain for the planet. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “about 2% of U.S. greenhouse gas can be linked to cattle,” and good management would diminish methane further. Australian research shows that “certain nutritional supplements can cut methane from cattle by half,” says the article Raising Beef Is Good for the Earth.
Another way is that good pasture management and a powerful dung beetle population can reduce methane. Cattle farmers are improving their way of raising beef continuously towards sustainability. Scientific management used by farmers to set the exact time and segmented area for cows to eat and then transfer them to the next area in order to maintain clean hygiene and a healthy condition both for the cattle and the grassland. The fields left behind which contain the bovine excrement will have some time for dung beetles to reduce methane emissions/greenhouse emissions. Are Cattle destroying The Planet? Therefore, the soiled grassland grows better quality grass to reboot natural resources and stabilize the soil. More importantly, we will have good quality beef.
A significant effect is that cattle are key to restoring carbon to the soil to counter global warming. If beef cattle are raised on grass, the bovine excrement returns nutrients and organic matter to the earth. “Plant-covered land that is never plowed is ideal for recapturing carbon through photosynthesis and for holding it in stable forms.” If cattle are raised primarily on grass and if good farming practices are followed, “as much as 2% of all greenhouse gases could be eliminated by sequestering carbon in the soils of grazing operations,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Raising cattle can actually balance the ecosystem and be more sustainable.
Clift also choses a not so plausible solution, that is that people eat significant less red meat to reduce their carbon footprints. Not to say beef is Americans’ favorite food, but if people really stop eating beef, what will our local cattle owners do? Would they all move out of California to raise beef elsewhere to survive? How will this impact California’s economy? Should Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s, etc. all change their menu to chicken burgers or something else? California may have to import beef domestically or internationally. This is going to open another can of worms. Clift’s solution may not solve the problem, and may even cause a lot more problems to be solved.
Therefore, eating grass-fed meat from managed grazing operations is desirable. “Rotational grazing systems recycle manure as fertilizer, improve wildlife habitat, and enhance plant root systems, increasing soil quality, water infiltration and carbon sequestration” Eating Right Can Save the World. In order to really reduce our carbon footprint, we need to refocus our attention on the areas and industries that do “put a serious damper on the planet.”