I suppose most folks have heard about Cows – their burp’s and other gaseous emissions contributing to climate change? NO? It was an interesting topic a few months ago when everyone was looking for things that contribute to damaging the atmosphere. Of course the Vegetarian Movement pointed the finger at livestock in general, and cows in particular.
Here’s a quote from WorldWide Watch:
“… recent analysis by Goodland and Anhang finds that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions.”
So now you have it folks, burps and farts of herds of livestock grown to feed us are the main reasons for climate change. However I have never actually believed that load of (is there a polite way to say BS? ) Cow Dung!
Being a regular reader at NephroPal, who is a strong advocate of Paleo eating, I was pleased to find an article today agreeing with my personal interpretation of the ‘Farting Cow Mythology’ entitled ‘You are what they eat’.
It’s a worthwhile read, but I shall attempt encapsulate the message for us here. Just remember the old(ish) saying ‘You are what you eat’ – which he has slightly rephrased as his article title You are WHAT THEY eat.
Cows normally eat grass containing omega 3 fatty acids, they were made that way. However there is a push to feed them corn and soybeans which are omega 6 fatty acids. So is that a problem? YES IT IS. Grain fed beef may well be easier to raise and fatten up more quickly – leading to cheaper prices. But is it healthy for us?
It is a problem for us, as the end user – the consumer, because omega 6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, while the natural omega 3 fatty acids are more anti-inflammatory. So feeding an unnatural food source to the cows is not only bad for them, it is bad for us as well.
The US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health (PubMed) has this to say about the ratios of omegas 3-6 in relation to human health:
Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) of approximately 1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is 15/1-16.7/1. Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established. Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today’s Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects.
In an article from Time Magazine: Save the Planet: Eat More Beef (January 25, 2010) the author points out that livestock attribute to 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases. The main problem with feeding grains to cattle is that “the production of fertilizer for feed crops [i.e. soybean and corn] can emit 41 million metric tones of CO2 a year.” Not so with pasture, grass fed cows. The author points out that although grass fed cows produced more methane gas than grain fed cows (due to their GI tract breaking down the plant fiber), this excess methane is somewhat contained in the manure which falls to the ground mixing with the soil.
The basic moral is that we humans can not consume food that we are genetically not designed to digest in large amounts. Nor should we feed our own livestock food that they were not designed for. We eat the livestock, we incur the damage. Grass fed beef maybe a better option for the planet as well as our health. So stop growing all the unnecessary grains which are used to fatten up the livestock (see above comment 41 million metric tones of CO2) and eat what you are genetically programmed to eat….. YOU and your cows, pigs and chickens, and don’t worry too much about the methane!
Loren Cordain (Ph.D Professor) also has some interesting information on cattle husbandry and feeding practices which you might find of interest.